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A Sudden Light by Garth Stein

sudden lightRiddell House and its surrounding grounds are what remain of a vast timber fortune made in the Pacific Northwest.  Whole trees frame the mansion, built in the early years of the 20th century.

Trevor Riddell is the last descendant of the Riddell family – it is by way of his parents’ separation that he is even aware of the house, when he and his father move there in the summer of 1990.

The current occupants of the house are Trevor’s Aunt Serena and his grandfather.  Grandpa Samuel is in the thrall of Alzheimer’s and is lucky to have lucid moments at all.  Serena is an attractive but odd lady who seems to have everyone’s best interests at heart, but there is more to her back story (and her brother, Trevor’s dad), which becomes evident as the days go by.

The two siblings want to sell the property for a tidy profit, but Grandpa Samuel is the main obstacle.  A failed attempt to notarize a power of attorney for Trevor’s father makes them ever more eager to be done with the estate and its past.

Trevor spends his days exploring the house and property.  Through old journals he finds in the old cabin behind the main house, he discovers secrets about the Riddell family and unleashes a restless ghost whose wishes run against his father’s and aunt’s schemes.

Is it best to make peace with the past or bury it in a flurry of McMansions?  Trevor finds himself conflicted with his knowledge of the family’s secrets and his desire to please his father. Above all, he’d like to bring his parents back together.

A Sudden Light is a ghost story of sorts, a mystery of a family dynasty, and a coming-of-age tale of a teenager wise beyond his years but still a child at heart.

Long live the trees.

(William Hicks, Information Services)




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