A Sudden Light by Garth Stein
For summer vacation 14-year old Trevor Riddell journeys to forested Washington State with his father to Riddell House, the mansion built by their timber baron forefather. A once grand and extravagant family, the money is all but gone: only the mansion and land remains. Trevor meets his grandfather and aunt for the first time at the decaying mansion. As the days go by Trevor explores more of the house and uncovers the mysteries of his family’s history as well as his father’s past. His father was reluctant to go to face his father and Trevor doesn’t understand how his demented grandfather could have been so awful that his son never wanted to return home. The answers he uncovers, and the ghosts he meets, makes this summer vacation one he will never forget.
The book is very different from The Art of Racing in the Rain, the author’s extremely popular novel told from the point of view of a dog named Enzo. There are no dogs in this book, but there are ghosts. And the haunting of Riddell House is a complex one with many layers and a strict purpose that Trevor is determined to discover. Set in 1990 the absence of technology enhances the book, we don’t have an adolescent running around trying to film ghosts and tweet his friends back home. The isolation is complete in an age when long distance telephone calls were the only ways to communicate with distant loved ones. Trevor, cut off from his mother by distance, and from his father by the traumas of the past, is truly alone to discover the secrets of Riddell House and try to put wrongs right. An engaging and haunting read for those who normally don’t enjoy ghost stories as well as those who do.