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A Sudden Light: A Novel

A Sudden Light: A Novel

Написано Garth Stein

Озвучено Seth Numrich


A Sudden Light: A Novel

Написано Garth Stein

Озвучено Seth Numrich

оценки:
4/5 (21 оценки)
Длина:
11 hours
Издатель:
Издано:
Sep 30, 2014
ISBN:
9781442353244
Формат:
Аудиокнига

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Описание

When a boy tries to save his parents' marriage, he uncovers a legacy of family secrets in a coming-of-age ghost story by the author of the internationally bestselling phenomenon, The Art of Racing in the Rain.

In the summer of 1990, fourteen-year-old Trevor Riddell gets his first glimpse of Riddell House. Built from the spoils of a massive timber fortune, the legendary family mansion is constructed of giant, whole trees, and is set on a huge estate overlooking Puget Sound. Trevor's bankrupt parents have begun a trial separation, and his father, Jones Riddell, has brought Trevor to Riddell House with a goal: to join forces with his sister, Serena, dispatch Grandpa Samuel-who is flickering in and out of dementia-to a graduated living facility, sell off the house and property for development into "tract housing for millionaires," divide up the profits, and live happily ever after.

But Trevor soon discovers there's someone else living in Riddell House: a ghost with an agenda of his own. For while the land holds tremendous value, it is also burdened by the final wishes of the family patriarch, Elijah, who mandated it be allowed to return to untamed forestland as a penance for the millions of trees harvested over the decades by the Riddell Timber company. The ghost will not rest until Elijah's wish is fulfilled, and Trevor's willingness to face the past holds the key to his family's future.

A Sudden Light is a rich, atmospheric work that is at once a multigenerational family saga, a historical novel, a ghost story, and the story of a contemporary family's struggle to connect with each other. A tribute to the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest, it reflects Garth Stein's outsized capacity for empathy and keen understanding of human motivation, and his rare ability to see the unseen: the universal threads that connect us all.
Издатель:
Издано:
Sep 30, 2014
ISBN:
9781442353244
Формат:
Аудиокнига

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Также доступно как книгеКниге


Об авторе

Garth Stein is the author of the international bestseller The Art of Racing in the Rain. He has written two other novels: How Evan Broke His Head and Other Secrets, which won a 2006 Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Book Award, and Raven Stole the Moon. He has also written a full-length play, Brother Jones, which received its first production in Los Angeles in 2005, and was described as "brimming with intensity" by L.A. Weekly.

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3.8
21 оценки / 32 Обзоры
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  • (5/5)
    An absolutely beautiful book about the dynamic of families and their history, present and future. A tale of integrity to one's self and to attoning for mistakes. The way the author added a supernatural aspect while also including present day issues was very well done. I was expecting a twist at the end, and wasn't disappointed, but it was quite different than what I thought it would be. An absolute pleasure of a read!
  • (3/5)
    This was our choice for our book club. I actually bought the book based on the cover. It was interesting but took me forever to read. I'll give the cliff notes version of the synopsis. This story is told by a 14 year old boy whose father takes him to his old home to convince his grandfather to sell the house. The boy sees ghosts, deals with a crazy aunt, bewildered grandfather and a confused father. While the premise sounds interesting, it was definitely wordy and seemed to drag on and on. However, I enjoyed reading it and loved it at the end when we saw Serena's true colors.
  • (4/5)
    Enjoyed this significantly more than Art of Racing in the Rain
  • (5/5)
    A SUDDEN LIGHT is an engrossing Gothic novel set in the Pacific Northwest in 1990. When his parents separate, 14-year old Trevor Riddell travels with his father to Riddell House, a once glorious estate built with the family's timber fortune. What he finds there, well...I don't know why, but this is a difficult book for me to review. I loved it. How's that? A SUDDEN LIGHT is very much a strong character-driven novel, but at the same time the story is multi-layered and complex. Many issues are dealt with - family secrets, illness, guilt, grief, environmentalism, restless ghosts, and more that I don't want to spoil for readers. The young protagonist, Trevor, was a compelling character who speaks as though he's wise beyond his years, but you find out why at the end.The language in this book was gorgeous and descriptive. I could easily picture the crumbling Riddell mansion (a character itself) and the majestic forest surrounding it. I really enjoyed listening to this on audiobook. Narrator Seth Numrich did a great job with the many different characters, each one sounding distinct. When he did the voice of Trevor's father, he sounded a bit like Keanu Reeves, which I liked. ;-)I'd definitely recommend A SUDDEN LIGHT to readers who enjoy family sagas, ghosts, and coming of age stories. 4.5 Stars!Disclosure: I received a copy of this audiobook from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
  • (5/5)
    This book was amazing and worth all five out of five stars, without a doubt. 'A Sudden Light' is an American Gothic masterpiece that is centered around the Riddell family, chronicling their self-destructive demise over the decades. Garth Stein is able to expertly weave multiple stories into a cohesive tale that is as heartbreaking, as it is hopeful.

    We step into the story through Trevor Riddell's eyes, the latest member of the Riddell family, as he joins his father, Jones, to the ancestral house in Washington state. Trevor is there to help his father "settle things," which at the start seems simple. Simply sell the property and divide the money so that Jones can reunite with his recently estranged wife and the three can be a family again. Matters become complicated when the history of the land reveals itself via ghosts and secret writings which plague Trevor, forcing him to choose between saving his parents' marriage and doing the right thing. He meets the ghost of his great grand-uncle, Ben, who died a tragic death at a young age. Ben makes himself visible to Trevor, pleading for him to help end the Riddell family misfortune and set him free. You see, after Ben's death, his father Elijah redrew his will explicitly stating his wishes that the land and home they owned, known as The North Estate, would be given back to nature. Once his descendants decided to move out of the house, it would be turned into a state park/nature preserve as a method of penance for forcing his son Ben to go against his nature, and for all of the land he helped destroy during the westward expansion. So far, his wishes have been grudgingly adhered to until recently.

    Trevor's aunt, 'Simply' Serena, has been living at The North Estate her entire life, and became her father's caretaker upon the death of her mother. She summons her brother, Jones, to the house with the hope that he will be able to convince their father Samuel to either sell the property, or sign over the rights so that they could sell it. Throughout the novel, there is a feeling that something isn't right with Serena and that she has a hidden agenda with her desire to sell the property. Stein does a fantastic job in writing her character and creating the constant state of unease and suspicion readers feel when she appears. He truly shows his skill in handling Serena's character, as her problematic upbringing would automatically incite sympathy and understanding from readers, yet seen through her current actions, there is only a mild afterthought of pity.

    A Sudden Light has all of the trappings of a typical American Gothic novel: family secrets, ghosts, the conflict of the rational and irrational, festering guilt, possible incest, and of course, a sprawling landscape in neglected decay reflecting the conflict and misery of its inhabitants, both living and deceased. It is a superb book that is so absorbing, readers will not be able to put it down until they reach the end.
  • (3/5)
    Book on CD performed by Seth Numrich.I read and loved The Art of Racing in the Rain. This is a VERY different book.Fourteen-year-old Trevor Riddell wants nothing so much as for his parents to be reunited. His parents’ marriage is stressed by his father’s business failing; they’ve lost their home and his mother has gone to England to see her relatives. Meanwhile, Trevor accompanies his father to the home where Dad grew up – the extraordinary Pacific Northwest mansion, Riddell House – to help Grandpa Sam who is ill. What Trevor finds in the house, though cannot be readily explained by his grandfather’s apparent dementia. This is a ghost story, an historical novel, a coming-of-age story, and a tale of dysfunctional families and long-held secrets that MUST COME OUT. I found it very atmospheric and liked the way Stein handled the paranormal elements. I loved Trevor who is obviously curious, but definitely still clinging to a hope that somehow, he can fix what is wrong with his parents’ relationship. He’s a keen observer and while the adults are keeping secrets (and even sometimes purposefully misdirecting him), he continues his explorations of the many nooks, crannies, secret compartments, and locked cabinets in the mansion that has seen better days. What he discovers helps him piece together not only the answers to what happened in the past, but a clear understanding of what is really going on in the present. There were some elements that I found rather unbelievable, but for the most part I was ready to suspend disbelief and go along for the ride. Seth Numrich did a fine job narrating the audiobook. He set a good pace and has the skill as a voice artist to give the many characters sufficiently unique voices. His interpretation of Trevor’s Aunt Serena is downright chilling.
  • (3/5)
    I love the narrator. I wasn't so happy with the ending and the taboo subject matter. It held my attention nicely, though. Good for a long drive.
  • (4/5)
    It took me a while to get into this story, but I was pretty hooked halfway in. And then there was the ending. Not that it didn't fit or make sense - it did...but that doesn't mean I have to like it. No, it didn't totally ruin the book, but it didn't make me like it any better. If you don't like ghost stories, this isn't for you. The 14-year old narrator learns much of his family's shady past from the ghost of an ancestor. And it is faith and belief in this afterlife that is important to his father's redemption story. This is a majorly dysfunctional family - generation after generation - and the future is in the boy's hands. The book was OK. As popular as The Art of Racing in the Rain was, it surprised me that I didn't see this book by Stein going out of my public library more. I can see where it might not appeal to some readers, but it still was a decent read and there's plenty to discuss as far as a book club pick.
  • (4/5)
    Thanks to the publisher, Simon & Schuster, through NetGalley, for sending me a digital copy of Garth Stein's latest novel, A Sudden Light.I have read only one of Stein's previous novels, The Art of Racing in the Rain, which was wonderful. I was excited to get a copy of his newest work. To me, it reads like an epic since the reader is taken back in time to learn the history of the previous generations of the Riddell family who amassed a fortune in the timber industry in the Pacific Northwest.Narrated by 14-year-old Trevor Riddell, we learn about the family home (which seems to be haunted) and mysterious deceased family members, while he tries to determine exactly what is going on with his aunt and grandfather who still reside there. Trevor seems much older than 14 as he starts to investigate and, ultimately, figures things out.There are many strong characters who I thoroughly enjoyed. I hope to read some of Mr. Stein's other works. I give this well-written novel 4 Stars out of 5.
  • (5/5)
    I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this audio read very believably as both a teenager and a grown man by Seth Numeric. The story builds slowly but it's very steady and progressive and I was happy to keep listening to find out---what happened next! Really excellent story telling---this is my first book by Stein so I will happily look for his others.
  • (5/5)
    If you live western Washington, you'll really enjoy this book. It is a very unusual coming of age story about the great great grandson of a Seattle timber baron.
  • (4/5)
    When 14 year old, Trevor Riddell's parents decide to separate, Trevor travels across the country with his father to visit the Seattle mansion where his father grew up. The goal of their trip is to have Trevor's grandfather sell the house, which is literally falling apart after decades of neglect. Having never met his grandfather or aunt Serena, Trevor is surprised and deeply curious to understand the long and twisted Riddell family history, which involved logging, trains, and philosophical and political debates over protecting America's natural resources. As Trevor begins exploring the mansion, which is filled with secret passages and hidden rooms, he comes into contact with ghosts and other unexplained phenomena, as well as the darker side of his family's past and present. This novel is unlike any that I have read before, as the topic of the story blended history and the supernatural in a very unique setting. I enjoyed Trevor's exploration of the house but was a little bored by the long passages which described the history and philosophy of those who sought to make a profit of the land out of greed. Also, the relationship between Serena and Trevor's father was a little creepy and not fully explained, which was a little troubling. However, I think that most people will enjoy this novel overall, particularly those who enjoy historical fiction or ghost stories set in creepy old houses.
  • (5/5)
    Great story. I am always impressed by his ability to tell a tale that is fresh and really holds your interest.
  • (4/5)
    I haven't read "The Art of Racing in the Rain" yet, but I am definitely going to pick it up now because I like Stein's writing style very much. "A Sudden Light" is the story of Trevor, a 14-year old boy whose parents are going through a rough patch, and his exposure to his father's family whom he had never met before. It's told by the man the boy becomes, so some of Trevor's thoughts and speech don't seem like that of a 14-year old boy, and, as another reviewer said, his reactions to the skeletons in the family closet, not to mention the ghosts that are haunting the old family mansion, just don't ring quite true. However, that said, this was a compelling read with some lovely writing and some interesting and likable characters, as well as some really creepy ones and a bit of an ick factor, though it's really not gruesome at all for being a ghost story.
  • (5/5)
    Garth Stein does not disappoint in this incredible novel. This is so well written and a true page turner. I basically inhaled it. The Riddell family is in deep financial trouble and their estate on the Puget sound in Seattle could provide the answer....that is if they can get Grandpa Samuel to sign a power of attorney making it possible for his grandchildren to sell the estate to land developers. Trevor, his great grandson, has come to Seattle with his Dad in hopes of saving his parent's marriage by completing the task that must be done in Seattle. The problem becomes that Trevor is in touch with his ancestors who are ghosts reaching out to him. The encourage him to fulfill the promise made all those years ago to return the estate to the forest and make it a national park. Part ghost story, part love story A Sudden Light is an enchanting novel beautifully executed. I could not put the book down. In the end I felt like I was part of the story and yes, I truly believed in ghosts.
  • (4/5)
    I really enjoyed this book - not usually a fan of "ghost stories" but in this case a well written novel with lots of good plot twists. Almost believable ....
  • (5/5)
    Oh, my faith has flagged at times. It's easy to fall back into the same routines and paint over the sublime with coat after coat of indifference. But now, in this moment of my telling this story to you, my faith is full. And I promise you something: when you have touched the face of God, you can never unlearn what you have learned. You can never unsee what you have seen. Page 348Trevor Riddell is a fourteen year old teenager who didn't know that he came from a long line of powerful, wealthy men. He also didn't know that the mansion his forefathers had built in an isolated forested area of the Pacific Northwest would hold secrets long buried and forgotten. What he does come to know at the end of his summer with his father and eccentric relatives is that spirits do exist, that guilt can consume a person's life, and sometimes, just sometimes, shedding light to dark secrets can be the first step towards freedom, but not without it's sacrifice, and not without leaving you forever changed. A Sudden Light is one of those books that you can't reveal too many details otherwise you take away the part that makes it magical. It is a complicated story of relationships, of families, of love, and how our past is an integral piece of who we are. Part ghost story, part mystery, but at the heart of it all, it's about a boy whose voice is at once both cynical and humorous, searching for answers he didn't even realized he wanted to ask. A completely captivating and satisfying story that you just have to experience for yourself. Highly, highly, recommend.
  • (3/5)
    I have a confession to make. I have not read THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN. I've seen the title - in fact, my feed reader was inundated with book reviews and buzz about the book when it came out, but for some reason, I've just never felt the urge to pick it up and read it. Still, I've spent quite a bit of time looking at the cover on Amazon, in my local bookstore, and I've even seen it at some garage sales. I can picture it clearly in my mind, and so, when I saw that A SUDDEN LIGHT was being released I thought - why not read the newest Garth Stein book and actually be on top of things?Read the rest of this review at The Lost Entwife on Sept. 22, 2014.
  • (4/5)
    Yes, I did like A Sudden Light: A Novel by Garth Stein. At first I was a bit baffled, not so much by the story, but the language in which it was told It didn't seem to be the language of a boy barely fourteen years old. But I kept reading, because there were twists, there were turns, and there were insinuations that I needed to follow to the end. I'm glad I did.A Sudden Light is a good read. good read, very descriptive, and dark. Very dark in some very sad and tortured ways.The main character Trevor Riddell. He goes off to Riddell House with his father, Jones Riddell for the first time after his parents separate. The family has had financial reverses and they have lost their home.. There are some touching interactions between Trevor and his grandfather Samuel. Samuel seems to be suffering from mild dementia, but is still able to put up a fight against his children who want to put him into a nursing home and sell the home where he and his family lived for generations.Serena seems a little unstable, and edgy. That is what I thought at first, but as it turns out, she is much more than that.Written in the first person, and my only quibble with this book is that the words used to describe certain passages were very odd for a boy just turned 14 years old. For instance when he enters a small room and describes the carpet colors as rich crimson and tobacco, and the lamps as having kerosene reservoirs. There are many of these slight deviations but still, I read on until this too, was explained.There are family secrets, there are spirits, ghosts and there really was a sudden light. But I think I will leave it to you to find it. I think you will be glad you did. I like a book that has a good solid ending, this gives you that, and more.
  • (3/5)
    2.5 this book had all the elements that draw me towards a novel: a huge old house with secret passages and rooms, a old family secret, old diaries found and a few very unusual characters. So why didn't this novel work for me? It is narrated by a man looking back at a period in his life when his parents were separated and he met his Father's family for the first tie, encountered the house and a few ghosts but it is all narrated by his fourteen year old self. This kind of bugged me. There were times I was plainly bored, the novel seemed to really drag in places and go off in tangents in others. Never quite figured out what this novel was meant to be, maybe too much was undertaken? This is one I would put down and not really be tempted to pick it back up. I didn't hate it, I just didn't like it as much as I thought I would. I think my favorite character was the grandfather, said to be suffering from Alzheimer, his seemed the most realistic character and his dialogue seemed true. The other characters dialogue at times seemed rote or wooden.Anyway this has gotten many good reviews so if you are curious, try it for yourself. This is just my own personal opinion and others may not agree.ARC from NetGalley.
  • (4/5)
    This was a well-written book. At first I thought of giving it only three stars, but the story picked up. As Trevor tries to save his parents marriage, he discovers some family secrets along the way.The story takes place in 1990. Trevor and his dad return to his family home to sell the Riddell mansion and collect the money. There Trevor meets his strange but alluring Aunt for the first time at the house. She has been living there and taking care of her elderly dad who she wants put into a nursing home.Trevor begins to feel a presence at the house named Ben. Through dreams and strange events, Trevor begins to unravel the mystery of his dad's time growing up. Trevor sets out to save both Riddell house and his family at the same time.This was a haunting story of secrets that will captivate readers. I received a complimentary copy via Netgalley.com.
  • (4/5)
    Trevor Riddell is a typical fourteen-year-old boy until his parents file bankruptcy and decide on a trial separation. He is then uprooted from his East Coast life to his father's ancestral home in Washington State. It is here that Trevor meets, for the first time, his grandfather and his aunt. He also discovers more about his father in one week than he has in the past fourteen years. Trevor's summer at Riddell House is filled with four-generations of father-and-son angst and drama, as well as ghosts. Is it possible for this normal teenager to uncover the secrets in his family and unlock the past so everyone in his family can move on?A Sudden Light is an amazing blend of one family's history, self-discovery, historical drama, contemporary fiction, and the supernatural all rolled into one incredible story. Trevor doesn't set out to uncover his family's secrets when he arrives at Riddell House, but he quickly begins to realize that all is not what it seems. He hears music in the ballroom and witnesses an apparition dancing, supposedly his grandmother Isobel. He bonds with his grandfather Samuel and learns to deal with his dementia. He admires his Aunt Serena but also realizes that she isn't the intelligent and beneficent person she appears to be. He also realizes that his father is a broken man, partially by his past at Riddell House and partially because of broken dreams. As Trevor explores Riddell House he learns about his great-great-grandfather Elijah, his gay great-uncle Ben (one of the other ghosts), his great-grandfather Abraham, his grandmother Isobel, his grandfather Samuel, and more. One of the enduring Riddell family legacies seems to be the dysfunctional relationship between father and son. It might seem unrealistic to think that a teenager could mend the broken ties within his family after generations of dysfunction, but that is exactly what Trevor attempts to do. I could go on and on about the Riddell family's generational dysfunction, about the ghosts that seem to direct Trevor's quest, about Serena and Jones (Trevor's father) machinations to get their father to agree to sell the house and property to a real estate developer, or about Trevor's growth as a person throughout the story. What I will say is that A Sudden Light is an engrossing read about one boy and his family, those living and those deceased. I enjoyed reading about the history of the Riddell family and Riddell House. I felt sympathy for Benjamin as he mourned the death of his lover and soul mate. I felt sympathy for his father Elijah as he mourned the death of Benjamin. I felt excitement tempered with anxiety as Trevor explored the house and interacted with the ghosts. I was angry with Trevor's father Jones as he drowned his sorrows in alcohol while attempting to regain his lost youth. We won't even discuss how I felt about Serena and her passive-aggressive manipulations (I didn't like it). Be prepared because the ending is a bit of surprise (no I won't tell you what happens, read the book!). If you like contemporary fiction, historical fiction, ghost stories, or family drama, then this is the book for you to read. If you haven't guessed by now, I loved A Sudden Light and can recommend it to anyone that simply enjoys reading a well-crafted story.
  • (3/5)
    After loving The Art of Racing in the Rain and seeing Garth Stein at a book signing, I was impatient for his next book, A Sudden Light, which was recently released. As it turned out, it is a family saga, which I happen to like (End of the Point by Elizabeth Graver and The Big House by Henry Howe Colt, as examples.) Unfortunately, A Sudden Light didn’t live up to my expectations nor the two other family sagas mentioned.Elijah Riddell made his fortune clear-cutting forests in the U.S. Northwest in the late 1800s and early 1900s. His wealth was shown by the enormous estate (200+ acres) near Seattle called North Estate. In Elijah’s time, first sons inherited the family business, however Elijah’s first son, Ben, turned out to be a conservationist. His beliefs were like those of John Muir and Henry David Thoreau, where we (people, nature, all things) are connected and he somehow convinced his father that to make amends for his devastation of the beautiful forests, he should let North Estate return to its natural form at some point.It is now 1990 and there is nothing left of Riddell’s fortune except the house. His progeny have squandered whatever was left to them. Elijah’s grandson, Samuel who appears to be in the early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease, inhabits the house. His children, Jones and Serena, want him to sign a Power of Attorney so that they can sell the house and land, refinance their lives and be rich again. Samuel, however, wants to follow Elijah’s wishes.Jones, who as a young adult moved to Connecticut, married and had a son, Trevor, has come back to Seattle, ostensibly to help his younger sister accomplish this task. He has brought fourteen year old Trevor with him. Trevor is soon caught up in the Riddell history, the house and his gorgeous Aunt Serena and initially is in favor of selling the land, hoping new found riches will help his estranged parents reunite.Trevor’s only problem is that Ben comes to him in nightly dreams, revealing deep secrets, explaining why Elijah’s wishes should be adhered to and more. As a fourteen year old, Trevor is confused about so many things in life, including, in this case, what is right and what is wrong.I will readily admit that I do believe all things are connected. We read today of the continued clear-cutting of the Amazon and who knows what climatic and environmental devastation that will cause. We see the impact of global warming. And who is to say that our spirits don’t reside somewhere that can be reached. I won’t dismiss that idea. However in A Sudden Light it is way to blatant. There’s no mystery, no shroud or fogginess and it takes away from the story.Additionally, while the story is supposedly being told by a mature Trevor in a fourteen year old voice, the voice isn’t believable. Sometimes it seems too old, sometimes too young.Finally, A Sudden Light is the story of a dysfunctional family. But much of that dysfunction is lost in the spirit world of the story.After bagging the two previous books I started, I felt committed to this book, so I finished it. However, I’m not sure I would have if I hadn’t put down two previous books.
  • (3/5)
    I was excited to read Garth Stein’s A Sudden Light after the first of his novels I read, The Art of Racing in the Rain, involved such a poignant story witnessed through the eyes of a pure-hearted family dog. But A Sudden Light only made it too hard to see. Several generations of a family whose wealth and power was a byproduct of the board foot yields locked in the ancient forests of the great northwest, battled even in the afterlife in the war of consumption versus conservation. On top of that, one of the great uncles playing the Glinda, Good Witch of the North equivalent, wanting nothing more than to reclaim the family’s cosmic honor by returning the estate to it’s original natural unmolested state, is gay. This fact offered some juxtaposition between the generations but seemed to distract from the generational tension rather than accentuate it. The other annoying interruption, more frustrating than a Jehovah's Witness during the middle of supper, were the well-known phrases that would appear from time to time, and remind me of other writings. The most disruptive being “not a creature was stirring”. Though light years from any kind of plagiarism, each phrase made me blink. Sometimes a blink is all you need to miss a sudden light, like the shooting star that excites a friend on a summer’s night but is gone before you can turn your head. I know this isn’t a very positive review, and I find myself liking A Sudden Light a bit less as I get further from the story. But these issues may be nothing more than the ever more frequent mumblings I utter as midlife drives me to share a theater box with Statler and Waldorf. It certainly will not keep me from reading more Garth Stein in the not too distant future.
  • (3/5)
    A Sudden Light: A Novel, Garth Stein, author; Seth Numrich, narratorJones Riddell and his wife Rachel had recently experienced financial difficulties. They were forced to declare bankruptcy, and consequently lost their Connecticut home. Their marriage became strained and they decided to temporarily separate. Rachel traveled to her parent’s home in England, and Jones took his 14-year-old son Trevor to his ancestral home in Seattle, Washington. It was there that his father’s family had once operated a successful forestry enterprise. Once at Riddell House, Trevor met his grandfather Samuel, a confused elderly man, and his beautiful Aunt Serena, a woman who made his hormones spring to life. Serena, younger than his father, was the caregiver for his grandfather. As children, her “Brother Jones” had exerted a great influence on her, but after the untimely death of their mother, Isobel, Jones was banished by his father, and more than two decades had passed since he had returned. His sister Serena wanted him to help her get their father, Samuel, to give them Power of Attorney so they could sell the house. The problem was that Elijah, Trevor’s great grandfather, who created the Riddell fortunes, became remorseful after his son Ben died; he changed from being a timber baron to kind of a conservationist. He decided to repent for abusing the forest in order to satisfy his own greed. He had written that the land should return to its former state after the last Riddell passed on. As Trevor became more comfortable in his father’s former home, he began to explore. There were mysteries developing. Objects were disappearing without explanation, like his watch and his father’s ring. Even his Aunt Serena’s cake server went missing. Then, on occasion he heard strange sounds, voices, and he even thought he saw apparitions. He discovered secret passageways and hidey holes where he found some of the missing objects. When he tried to tell his mom and his dad about what he had discovered, they didn’t believe him. He wanted to know if the house was haunted. His mom thought his imagination was at work. His aunt laughed at him. Trevor realized that his dad was hiding something, but he wouldn’t reveal it to Trevor even when he pleaded.As Trevor learned more and more secrets, he discovered that Elijah’s son Ben had died very young, under odd circumstances, right after the death of his lover, Harry. Both men had loved the trees and hated that Elijah’s business was deforesting the land. Elijah had disapproved of Ben’s homosexual relationship; Ben had disapproved of the family’s logging business which he believed was raping the land. This was more than a century ago and two things were true: Alternate lifestyles were not accepted and abusing the environment was not a parlor conversation.After awhile, against reality, it seems that Trevor actually engaged with a ghost, the ghost of Ben. He learned that Ben’s brother Abraham was Grandfather Samuel’s father. He learned that Ben was a gentle, thoughtful man. He learned about the “not quite secret” great love he and Harry had shared. He learned about the history of the estate and he discovered that Ben thought that he, Trevor, might be the one who could save it so that Elijah’s wish to honor Ben’s memory, by returning the land to its former state of beauty, would be fulfilled. This was in contrast to his aunt and father’s wish to sell it and have the land developed. Both Serena and Jones were truly cash strapped. What should Trevor do? Should he help Ben or should he help his father and his aunt? What about his grandfather? Did he want his grandfather sent to a home? Did he need that kind of environment? Was he really that sick? These were all questions that would be difficult for an adult to handle. Trevor had only just turned 14 a few days before!As Trevor continued to consider what to do, he explored further and learned more and more. He began to suspect that Serena had ulterior motives. He began to wonder about why his grandfather seemed so confused sometimes, believing he heard his dead wife dancing, and yet at other times, seemed a bit more coherent. As the story twists and turns, it is laced with revelations and tragedy. How will justice be served for Serena, Jones and Samuel in this life? How will justice be served for Ben who is from the past?At the core of the story, there is also an interesting environmental question. Should the forest be restored to its original majesty or should human interaction with it be allowed to destroy it? Have humans interfered with nature? Should they?
  • (4/5)
    I received “a Sudden Light” at BEA 2014 and hadn’t had a chance to read it until now. It was highly recommended by a co-worker and the cover was too impossible to resist!Many users have already summarized the story, so I don’t feel a need to go through it all again. I was intrigued immediately with the story. It was a mix of mystery, ghost story, and rich literature. I loved the actual plotline as well. Everyone’s family is filled with historical mysteries, and it was exciting to see Trevor uncover his own family’s background – which turned out to be so bizarre that it made the entire story unpredictable. I also loved the characters Trevor (who, I agree, was a bit mature for his age, but I chalked it up to him reworking his past a bit as he’s telling it as an adult) and Grandpa Samuel. However, I found it very difficult to find any redeeming qualities in Serena, Trevor’s father, or Trevor’s mother. The entire relationship between Serena and Trevor’s father (“Brother Jones”) was cringe-worthy to me, and I lost a lot of respect for Jones for not snapping out of it and realizing what a horrible person Serena was. It made it difficult to read because I basically wanted to smack some sense into all of them.In the end, I was glad that I finally read the story. I ended up skipping a few pages of the ending because I found it slightly redundant, but other than that it held my interest for the entire length of the plot. I thought the flashback/dream scenes were incredibly interesting and I wished that I could see a bit more of that. I also loved the description of the house and land, and I loved the relationship that Trevor built with Grandpa Samuel. I’ve never read any of Garth Stein’s other books (I know, I know!) but this got me interested in him.
  • (4/5)
    Ghosts, secrets, and a dysfunctional family – what's not to love?While I enjoyed the author's The Art of Racing in the Rain, I didn't love it but decided to get this one a try anyway. The seems The Art is a more popular book, but I liked this one better.A 14-year old kid has to go with his father to a musty old mansion and and the musty old grandfather who lived there, all so dead dad could sell off the house, against the wishes of former family, all for money. Dad is goaded on by his sister, Serena, ol' Grandpa's caregiver. The ghosts had something to say about the plan. It doesn't take us long to know that the outwardly sweet Serena is a manipulative and rather nasty piece of work.Sure, Clever Trevor, the kid, sometimes seemed too old and too wise for his 14 years. Yes, there were too many convenient happenings in the story, hidden places and things too easily found.Trevor, the narrator, has a good heart and a mission of his own:“But I understood two things: first, somewhere along the way, my father had gone wrong and my mother stopped loving him; second, I could fix him. I could pull him together. And I believed that, by the end of the summer, if I did my job right, I could deliver my father to my mother as if he were a regular, loving person, like when she first met him.”That's a pretty big calling for a 14-year old. He was so likable – everyone else, not so much.The grandfather was quite a character, sometimes there mentally and sometimes not. And his daughter had a habit of putting him in not-quite-PC t-shirts with sayings like “GOD WAS MY COPILOT...BUT WE CRASHED IN THE MOUNTAINS AND I HAD TO EAT HIM.”There was even a bit of wisdom. When writing about people who want everything convenient and easy, “They wanted well-lit, even pathways so children and elders wouldn't trip and skin a knee or break a hip. And they didn't realize they were raising a generation of children who could only walk on level ground. The pathfinders of the world, henceforth, would be confinded to the pre-paved paths.”While this book won't go down in history as one of the world's great novels, it was quite engaging, especially for those among us who like both ghost stories and reading about dysfunctional families.I was given a copy of this book for review, but checked the quotes against a published edition.
  • (5/5)
     Thank you to Simon & Schuster AU for providing this book in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence my review in any way.A Sudden Light is a story about love, loss, regret and a ghost that spans over generations of the Riddell family. The Riddell House, where fourteen-year-old Trevor’s grandfather and aunt live – who he has never met before the summer of 1990 – has been in the family since the early 1900s when it was built by Trevor’s great-great-grandfather and is full of mystery, deception and family secrets. Feeling the weight of his parents’ ‘trial separation’ after they become bankrupt, Trevor sets out to put the story together and uncover the hidden truths of his family. As he does, he realises that they are not alone in Riddell House. A Sudden Light is told in the reflective voice of Trevor, now in his thirties, as he tells the story of that summer to his children. I loved how the naivety and innocence of young Trevor, with his plan to get his parents back together and repair his family, is melded with the wiser tones of the older Trevor and how he remembers what happened that summer. I really enjoyed this style of writing and could easily identify when the older Trevor was kind of narrating and the younger one was living it, so to speak. The older Trevor describes things and emotions and thoughts that the younger Trevor, though a gifted writer, may not have understood or had the capacity to explain at the time. He did keep a journal which would have helped the recall of the older Trevor along, I’m sure. We have a very interesting cast of characters in the Riddell House – both living and dead. Trevor, the only child, and his dad have returned to the family house where Aunt Serena and Grandpa Samuel have lived since Trevor’s dad, Jones, was a child. Aunt Serena is a powerful character who has something to wield over the other members of the family and an ideal she won’t let go of. Grandpa Samuel is slowly losing his mind to Alzheimer’s – or is he? He claims he can hear his late wife Isobel dancing in the night and he writes out Post-It notes that nobody understands. Jones and Serena join forces to convince their father its time to sell the house to developers and Trevor is enlisted to help. But as Trevor learns more about the house and its previous inhabitants, he starts to wonder if that is really a good idea. He’s stuck between a rock and a hard place: once they have money from the sale, he believes his parents will get back together. As he delves further and further into the mystery of the house and meets its ghostly inhabitant, who won’t leave until the house and the estate is turned back to nature, Trevor doesn’t know what to do. Add to that the double motives of Aunt Serena and the possibility that Grandpa Samuel might not actually be crazy – the Riddell House is so much more than it seems and its no wonder that Trevor is torn.There was a lot involved in this novel: the history of the Riddell House and its inhabitants, the reason Jones left the family house and never went back, the current trial separation, the plot to sell the house to developers and put Grandpa Samuel in a nursing home as well as environmental consciousness and related issues to logging and life in the 1900s. But I liked it. It was full of life and complexity because life is full of complexity. I never felt like there was too much going on in this book, I just went along for the ride and enjoyed all of it. I loved Trevor’s snarky fourteen-year-old attitude and his cleverness, and the fact that he knew he was clever and yet wasn’t a pain. I enjoyed his inquisitiveness and watching him develop a conscious about things he hadn’t yet considered in his young life. I loved Grandpa Samuel, and I detested Serena, and I felt sorry for Jones – it was just a winning combination. Everything just flowed so perfectly and as the story raced towards its conclusion, my heart was in my mouth and by the time the epilogue rolled around I had tears streaking down my face. I really enjoy multi-generational stories that feel epic due to the span of time they cross and the intricacies of the characters and I love family secrets! And the other thing is I just can’t find anything wrong with this book. And I try to, you guys know that. BUT ITS BRILLIANT. Solid five stars and I’m off to find The Art of Racing in the Rain.
  • (5/5)
    There is so much to love in A Sudden Light that is becomes difficult to review the novel without unabashed gushing. It is one of those rare novels that has it all – a spooky house, ghostly presences, an amazing background, intriguing characters, a well-executed plot, and the emotional connections necessary for any story about family. The supernatural element is never a distraction but rather enhances the ties that bind Trevor to Riddell House and his grandfather. The whole novel makes for one of those unforgettable reading experiences filled with intensity and reflection, high emotion, and a general escape from reality.Every family has its share of quirky characters and skeletons hiding in closets, and the Riddell family is no different. Grandpa Samuel may appear to be exhibiting signs of dementia, but there is something else bothering him. Aunt Serena is a bit too sultry to be an ordinary aunt. Serena and Jones are hiding something from both Trevor and Samuel. All of this while Trevor is experiencing visits from beyond the grave. To add to the cast of characters are the long-dead relatives – the lumber baron who built the family fortune, the lumber baron’s son who lost the family fortune, and the other son who died suddenly and young. Trevor soon discovers that no where is the idea that family is forever more apparent than at Riddell House.The declining house and the looming forest add to the spooky atmosphere of the story and ultimately become characters in their own right. So much of the novel explores one’s responsibility to nature that the trees become personified during Trevor’s quest to decipher right from wrong. Similarly, as a silent witness to all of the family drama, Riddell House takes on a life of its own, protesting through creaks, groans, and other eccentricities of a house falling into ruins. Together, they enhance the ominous feel of everything occurring within Trevor’s life and capture a reader’s imagination.In A Sudden Light, Garth Stein confirms his powers of observation and skill at capturing the human emotional experience. His descriptive scenes are exquisite and alive. His characters are complex and real. His story taps into the very heart of the intricacies of family bonds. It is a stunning story of love and forgiveness that one would be remiss to ignore.
  • (4/5)
    Fourteen year old Trevor Riddell knows next to nothing about his father’s side of the family…but when Trevor’s mother and father lose the family home and go their separate ways, Trevor travels with his father, Jones Riddell, to the Pacific Northwest and lands at Riddell House – a massive mansion made from whole trees and perched on a bluff overlooking Puget Sound. Jones reunites with his sister Serena, an oddly sexual woman who harbors some deep and disturbing secrets. Together, the two siblings hatch a plan to force the elderly Grandpa Samuel (their father and Trevor’s grandfather) to sign over his rights so they can sell off the house and property to land developers. Trevor is pulled into the scheme, while at the same time he begins to explore the mansion (guided by a ghostly, long dead great-uncle) and uncover the secrets of the past.Garth Stein is perhaps best known for his novel, The Art of Racing in the Rain (which I loved), and with A Sudden Light he returns to some common themes of spirituality, connection to others, and moving forward through life’s challenges. But that is where the similarities end. A Sudden Light is really about family secrets and righting wrongs, about finding what is truly important in life and choosing people over “things” and money.The book is retrospectively narrated by the adult Trevor who is looking back on the summer of his fourteenth year. Through Trevor’s eyes the reader begins to uncover the dysfunctional lives of the Riddell family. The characters are decidedly quirky and not always wholly likable (Serena is just downright creepy). I fell in love with Grandpa Samuel who is deeply flawed, but completely believable.Stein’s writing is captivating and beautifully penned. The novel is not without its weaknesses (readers have to suspend reality to fully connect with the characters), but I found myself slipping into the story and looking forward to picking up the book the more pages I turned.Garth Stein has written a family saga that fully immerses the reader in the Pacific Northwest’s timber industry. Those who enjoy quirky characters and novels which touch the human heart, will want to pick up a copy of A Sudden Light.Recommended.