Garth Stein’s potentially amazing book turned out to be a serious bore. I couldn’t recommend to enough people his book THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN. If you’re reading this, you probably already know that book had it all: heart, soul, and mind (and not many clichés).
I can see what Garth was trying to accomplish in A SUDDEN LIGHT, and not just a quick cash-grab. The protagonist tells the story through the eyes of a seemingly innocent soul—through the eyes of a child. This is not unlike the protagonistic viewpoint of Garth’s former novel, told through the innocence of a dog looking back through his life and time spent with family. And like the former novel, this new novel highlights the importance of family, traditions, and overall life values.
But something is missing. The child vantage point wasn’t unique enough for Mr. Stein. The child wasn’t as fresh or interesting as a dog, seeking to be reincarnated into a human. Mr. Stein needed something else. Enter: the old house. No! Still not enough! Enter: the ghost story!
Too much, Garth, too much.
Trying to tie it all together lost the magic that Racing in the Rain had: simplicity. And from that simplicity, we as readers drew the lines to our own lives. We walked away with practical lessons and cherished moments. Here: none of that.
And so, this novel becomes confusicated. In efforts to connect the over-reaching elements to the simplicity of life, the details become boring. Where there should be action or excitement, there is tedious, drowsy-eyed reading. Where there should be warmth and heart-felt moments, there is head-pounding frustration.
It’s not all bad. It’s just not what fans are expecting. You’ll find your usual tropes of split families and haunted pasts, all mixed together. It’s what you’ve come to expect from the popular press; it’s a mixed bag of trying-to-scratch-your-feelings efforts, hoping to climb the best seller charts. But, you know what? We can tell when it’s fake, versus true heart.
However, there are still plenty of folks that enjoy this book via Amazon ratings: A Sudden Light: A Novel