October 2014 Indie Next List
“Stein's new novel of family relationships and responsibilities explores the connections between the living and the dead, between parents and children, and what it means to be stewards of the land. Two very compelling characters drive the story: a 14-year-old boy trying to patch his family back together and a centuries-old ghost trying to make sure that the wrongs of the past are put right so that a family's legacy can be maintained. A Sudden Light is a compelling search for faith and meaning in a world where bad things sometimes happen.”
— Andrea Jones, The Galaxy Bookshop, Hardwick, VT
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.