I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
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.
It pains me to give a book by Seanan McGuire less than 4 stars. In this case, it is truly not the book, it is me. I’m just not that into ghost stories, although I liked this one as much as I am capable of enjoying a ghost story.
Those of you who have been reading my reviews for a while will know that supernatural aspects to books send me to bed with the covers over my head more often than not. Both The Shining and The Haunting of Hill House required that I read them only during bright daylight hours and then I had to distract myself with other literature as the shadows lengthened. So I was pleasantly surprised when this book was told from the perspective of the ghost, Rose. It made all the difference in the world to me, and I wasn’t bothered by my usual scaredy-cat feelings at all.
McGuire does for the ghostly world what she did for the cryptid world in her Incryptid series—she catalogues, names, and assigns limitations, duties, and dangers to each type of spook. There is even a passing reference to the Healy family (part of the Price family amalgam in the Incryptid books) which makes me believe that Sparrow Hill Road takes place in the same weird North America as that series.
The book reads more like a series of short stories which follow one another chronologically. Rose is a “hitcher,” a spirit who must hitchhike and who can sense which drivers need her help to avoid accidents or other mishaps. As in McGuire’s October Daye series, smell is an important sense—in that series, October can identify each member of the Fae by the scent of their magic. Her own smells of copper and cut grass, if I recall correctly. Similarly, Rose diagnoses what kind of problem she has been summoned to through the combination of smells that emanate from the mortal she comes in contact with.
Although this will never be my favourite of McGuire’s series, I’m sure that I will read future volumes in it should they be published. I read this to fill the Ghosts square of my Halloween Book Bingo.