Monday, March 03, 2008

The Shadow Year

Children have existed in a universe parallel but separate from that of their parents forever, the two worlds crossing paths on occasion but never quite managing to become one. In one 1960s Long Island suburb two brothers and their sister took things a step farther by building in their basement a scale model of their neighborhood, right down to the little toy people who represented the main characters in their lives.

It was only when strange things started to happen in their real world that the boys noticed that their little sister had the uncanny ability to move people and cars around in their basement “Botch Town” in a way that often predicted what was to happen next. The brothers, as children usually do, managed to give the appearance that they were in full compliance with the wishes of their parents, a father working so many hours every day that he barely saw them and an alcoholic mother who could be counted on to pass out in the evenings just when the boys wanted to sneak out of the house to do a little neighborhood snooping on the sly. But that was in the universe belonging to their parents, not in the one they called their own.

Things didn’t seem so dangerous to Jim and his little brother when the biggest neighborhood concern was the prowler who had suddenly taken to peeping into the bedroom windows of the neighbor women and their daughters. Then a neighborhood boy disappeared and, try as they might, the community could come up with no clue as to his disappearance or whereabouts. But the boys kept their suspicions to themselves even when they spotted a mysterious white car in the neighborhood being driven by a pale man they nicknamed Mr. White.

Jeffrey Ford’s The Shadow Year becomes more and more a nail-biter as the reader begins to wonder just how much truth there is in the crazy speculation that the boys have been involved in for so many weeks. As little Mary moves the pieces of Botch Town around the sheet of basement plywood on which it sits, the boys nervously watch for the danger that is approaching their very doorstep.

The Shadow Year is a coming-of-age novel that should appeal to a wide array of readers because it combines the best elements of that genre with those of a mystery thriller, resulting in a book that gets better and better as the reader turns its pages.

Rated at: 4.0


  1. Urk... I'm just adding to my wishlist left and right this morning. Sigh...

  2. It's a fun book, Heather...kind of sneaks up on you.


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