Book Review: Sparrow Hill Road
Author: Seanan McGuire
Published by: DAW
Publication Date: 6 May 2014
Page Count: 312
Source: Paperback bought from used bookstore
Audience: Adult - Urban Fantasy/Ghost Stories
Have you ever heard of the Girl in the Green Silk Dress, the Girl in the Diner, the Phantom Prom Date, or the Ghost of Sparrow Hill Road? If you have, then you have heard about Rose Marshall, a sixteen-year-old girl who died on her prom night in 1952 in Buckley Township, Michigan.
All Rose Marshall wanted was to survive the next two years of high school and then get out of Buckley with her boyfriend, Gary. On the night of their prom, Gary never showed to pick Rose up. She decided to drive to his house, find out what happened, but she never made it. She was run off the road and died in a horrible crash. She becomes a Hitcher, a ghost who walks the back roads and highways, hitching a ride from anyone willing to pick her up. For some of these people, she is there to save them, for others she is there to help them along the way in their afterlife's. Even as she performs her duties, she is also constantly running from the man who took her life, the man who can still destroy what little she has left.
I loved this book. I loved the way it was written, I loved the characters, I loved the sub-worlds created. Seanan McGuire has such a wonderfully creative imagination. The story line itself, the plot, hooks you from the very beginning. Rose's story is so intriguing, and you feel compelled to keep reading. You want to know what happened to her because it's not told right away, and you want to know what will happen to her, how her story will end.
The book was written as stories from Rose's afterlife. It hops around between 1952 and 2015, some of the stories written as present times, others are her history. The historical stories telling how the ghost of Rose became such a legend in the living world. What I also love is that each story connects to a later story or to her present, they all have a purpose.
The worlds McGuire created for her book are very imaginative. There are layers to the world. There's the Daylight, where the living are; the Twilight, where the ghosts like Rose spend most of their time when not up haunting the Daylight world; and there's the Midnight, the dark world that even Rose won't venture, where the most evil dead are. As you read, you can picture and imagine each world, one darker than the next, the creepiness that leaks off the Midnight world, and the almost uncomfortable feeling from the Twilight (if you're living or newly dead). They were written so well.
It's also not just people who die and become ghosts. Roads well used, but long forgotten are also a part of the sub-worlds, vehicles loved in life can also be found down in the Twilight. In the Daylight, they are alive, and Rose can hear them and talk with them in a sense. I loved how inanimate objects were personified, they weren't just things, they had their own stories to tell.
Rose was such a fun character to read. She was witty and strong, knew how to handle herself in this crazy afterlife. The other characters were also strong and memorable, the good and the evil. The Last Dance Diner, where Rose spent her time in the Twilight, was a character in and of itself, the owner not dead, but not alive either. Every ghost or creature of the night is from folklore and ghost stories told around campfires, and I loved how each fit so seamlessly into Rose's story.
I feel like this wasn't just a ghost story. It's also a story about moving on. Some people are able to move on, others seem to hold on so tightly, they can warp the truth of what really happened. Ghosts and humans alike have a problem letting go of the past, but humans (in this book, anyway) seem to have a harder time letting go. Lives and afterlives continue on, no matter what tragedy separates us from those we love.
I can't find a single fault with this book. For those who are sensitive to language, there is a bit of cursing throughout, but nothing vulgar, or too inappropriate. This is the first Seanan McGuire book I have read, but she has several other series in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy section of your local bookstore. She has definitely made me a fan of her work, and I look forward to picking up her other books.
One Last Thought: I didn't expect the book to end the way it did. I was expecting more closure, but I didn't realize it was the first in a series. I like the way it ended. Even if there's not another book in the series, I still liked the ending. It was hopeful.
Favorite Thing About This Book: There is no one thing that I love over everything else in this book. Overall, it is very well written with strong characters and intriguing worlds.
First Sentence: There is nothing more human than the ghost story.
Favorite Character: Rose
Least Favorite Character: Bethany
Rose Marshall died in 1952 in Buckley Township, Michigan, run off the road by a man named Bobby Cross—a man who had sold his soul to live forever, and intended to use her death to pay the price of his immortality. Trouble was, he didn’t ask Rose what she thought of the idea.
It’s been more than sixty years since that night, and she’s still sixteen, and she’s still running.
They have names for her all over the country: the Girl in the Diner. The Phantom Prom Date. The Girl in the Green Silk Gown. Mostly she just goes by “Rose,” a hitchhiking ghost girl with her thumb out and her eyes fixed on the horizon, trying to outrace a man who never sleeps, never stops, and never gives up on the idea of claiming what’s his. She’s the angel of the overpass, she’s the darling of the truck stops, and she’s going to figure out a way to win her freedom. After all, it’s not like it can kill her.
You can’t kill what’s already dead.