Review of ‘A Sudden Light’ by Garth Stein

A Sudden Light is Garth Stein’s first novel for adults after his New York Times bestselling book The Art of Racing in the Rain. This is a review from our February issue, written by Melissa Wilson, who rates A Sudden Light as highly recommended.


Built by family patriarch Elijah Riddell, the Riddell House on Puget Sound in the state of Washington is beyond compare. Made of whole trees from forests grown for the Riddell timber empire, the house has played a significant role in every generation of the family. For Elijah it represented his life work and was to be his legacy. His sons, Ben and Abraham, feel trapped by the house and their dominating father’s expectations. Both sons experience tragedy behind the mansion’s walls, as does Samuel, Abraham’s son, who loses all he loves there. Two of Samuel’s children, Jones and Serena, are deeply affected by their father’s inability to move on.

When 14-year-old Trevor (the son of Jones) visits Riddell House for the first time, he begins to learn the intricacies of this rich family history at a crucial time. Samuel’s health is in decline, and Jones and Serena face a major decision — will they sell the house and free themselves from its tragic history, or do they need to stay connected to the past in order to face the future? An extensive library, secret diaries and ghosts help Trevor to learn the secrets of the house; he is instrumental in finding a new and happier path for this broken family.

Riddell House is filled with fading grandeur, dark hallways and visitors from generations past. It appears that Trevor doesn’t always live in reality, and yet he manages to identify how the family needs to heal. The world of the Riddell family might be tragic, but there are also many enchanting aspects to living in a mansion in the middle of a forest.

**** (Highly Recommended)
Simon & Schuster $29.99
Reviewed by Melissa Wilson

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