Title: Sparrow Hill Road
Author: Seanan McGuire
Published: May 2014
Characterization and badassery
Rose Marshall didn’t intend to be badass. She wanted to be a nice little 50’s wife. Maybe the most badass she’d get would be her really great jello mold recipe. Instead, she gets killed on her prom night. Driven off the road and doomed to walk the roads as a ghostly hitchhiker, she spends over fifty years as a sixteen-year old.
When I think about being an eternal teenager, I’m pretty horrified, but Rose rolls with what she’s got. She doesn’t whine and complain She simply becomes an old soul who never got to be an adult. She has no special powers but she risks her existence for others just because she feels it’s the right thing. That makes her pretty badass, in spite of the green, antique prom dress that always wants to reappear on her body. (You know, the one she died in.)
Plot and pacing
Because she’s dead, her existence is not linear. There’s a great passage in the book describing that, and then the book subtly follows format. The chapters flash back and forward in a nonlinear way that nonetheless flesh out Rose’s character and tell her story. This approach was very clever. I appreciate the unspoken effort of creating a bigger picture.
Rose’s ghost-ness means that she manifests when she manifests. She doesn’t get a whole lot of say in the rules of the afterlife. Time means little when you’re dead. This makes the nature of her existence and the book disjointed in places. I really like that the form of the story mimics the form of Rose’s existence. The pace doesn’t lag and the story doesn’t drag. I was interested in each of Rose’s adventures in the afterlife.
The worldbuild was unique. Different types of ghosts are made due to different types of death, and other types of non-living entities populate the undead landscape. Some are benevolent, some malevolent, and most are in between. Each has certain rules that govern their existence. There was an interesting perspective of ghost hunters as cruel sadists.
Prose and editing
Well done. Professional editing and a good voice.
Hilariously funny in some places, grim in others, and also tragic by turns. The funny bits keep the story from getting too dark. An artful balance.
“I have never wanted to punch a highway in the face as badly as I do right now.”
Although this was not a difficult read, I would not call it lightweight. This has heft and forethought. There’s more to this book than the words on the pages. The author has taken a multi-dimensional approach to creating this story, which I absolutely love.