Apologies for the quiet, friends – I am just back from a wonderful internet-free vacation. This was not the year where I planned posts ahead to fill my absence – so I’ll just start trying to catch up where I left off.
I very much enjoyed Seanan McGuire’s Velveteen Vs. books, so when I heard from the Book Smugglers that she had a new book out, and further saw that it was on the shelf at the library, I took it right home.
Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuire. DAW books, 2014.
This is a series of ghost stories building on the afterlife and legend of Rose Marshall, the Phantom Prom Date, hitchhiking the roads since 1952.
Rose was born on the wrong side of the tracks in tiny Buckley Township, Michigan, and fell as hard for handsome Gary as a sixteen-year-old could. But she was run down on her way to prom by the handsome but evil Bobby Cross, who fuels his immortality with the souls of those he crashes. Now Rose is sweet sixteen forever, using borrowed coats to stay warm and borrow flesh for a night. At the same time, she smells what kind of accidents are coming up and tries to prevent them if she can and guide the souls of the lost in the right direction otherwise. Rose is our guide to the different kinds of supernatural beings that haunt the roads – hitchhikers, homecomers, crossroads ghosts and route witches, as well as the occasional friendly bean sidhe. We explore the magic of well-travelled roads and the sacredness of roadside diners through stories that range from scary to sweet with a good dose of spookiness throughout.
Ghost stories are not really my favorite, and I wouldn’t have read this at all if I hadn’t enjoyed McGuire’s other works so much. Many of the stories worked beautifully for me, and I really enjoyed the magic around roads, diners, and risky bargains made at crossroads at midnight. (“Of course diners are magic!” said my love, when I told him about it.) Some of the stories were a little too gruesome for me, and since I never knew what the next story was going to be like, I stopped reading it at bedtime. Rose herself is a fine character, one who’s had to make peace with her new afterlife and formed a new identity for herself apart from the good, sweet girl she used to be. (There are fairly frequent but mostly inexplicit mentions of sex.) This is another one that was originally published as a series of short stories, and this shows in the storytelling, even as there is an arc that gradually emerges from the seemingly unconnected and decidedly nonlinear stories. I wasn’t sure that the ending quite lined up with where things had been reading, but it was still satisfying overall. I’d recommend it heartily to readers who like ghosts and books tinged with an edge of horror.