a sudden light book coverReviewed by Nina Longfield

A Sudden Light by Garth Stein is a pleasure to read. Stein has an uncanny ability of taking his reader back to a now seemingly innocent time period before the ever-present threats of the world crashed in around us. A Sudden Light begins with the adult narrator, Trevor Riddle, looking back. His story takes the reader to 1990 and to fourteen year old Trevor’s introduction to Riddle House. The family house, overlooking the Puget Sound at the edge of Seattle, Washington, was built around 1910 by Trevor’s infamous great-great-grandfather and timber magnate, Elijah Riddle. Just as the family name suggests, Riddle House is full of puzzles as is the Riddle family. Trevor discovers there are ghosts hidden in his family’s history, and possibly literal ghosts in Riddle House.

Trevor Riddle is an intriguing narrator. The reader meets Trevor as both a young teenager of fourteen and as an adult several years after his first experience with Riddle House. The reader’s introduction to fourteen year old Trevor shows a typical disassociated teenager lost in the music of his headphones and ignoring his parents, which seems fitting as they also seem to ignore him. He exhibits no enthusiasm for events around him until he sees Riddle House. From the beginning of his entry into the house, young Trevor Riddle is mesmerized. This intrigue obviously extends into his adulthood as he continues to puzzle out his family home and history. The novel slips easily from young Trevor’s experiences at Riddle House to the adult Trevor’s research into his family history.

The first few pages of A Sudden Light seem a bit slow and I admit the prologue was a bit of a drag. It was all looking back. However, the prologue sets up the story to come and made much more sense after I got into the bigger picture of Trevor’s awakening to the mystery of his family. It wasn’t until the first chapter and my introduction, along with Trevor’s, to Riddle House that I became absorbed into the story. It is in the first chapter and the introduction to the house that Trevor really becomes a lively narrator enthusiastic finally for his surroundings.

From the introduction of Riddle House, the novel had all of my attention. I was lost in the mystery of the story. Setting this book down was difficult and I couldn’t wait to get back into it. Garth Stein’s writing is lyrical and mesmerizing completely drawing one into the action. I thoroughly enjoyed A Sudden Light and found it a very satisfying read.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Nina Longfield is a writer living in Oregon’s fertile wine country. When she is not reading or writing in her spare time, Nina enjoys hiking in the hills surrounding her cabin.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Simon & Schuster. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.