Sparrow Hill Road – Seanan McGuire

About the Book

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.

432 pages (paperback)
Published on May 6, 2014
Published by DAW
Author’s webpage

This book was sent for me to review by the publisher.

I’m really not that into ghost stories. In fact, ghosts interest me just a little bit more than zombies, which really isn’t much (honestly, zombies interest me a little less than reading a book about the biology of cockroaches). The fact that this is a ghost story isn’t what got me to read the book. What got me to read this one is the name of the author. That right there shows you how powerful a name can be (so work your careers wisely, my writerly friends).

Seanan McGuire is a name that really attracts attention. She has written a ton of different books that have rave reviews, and it really shows. She’s had time to polish and really hone her craft, and Sparrow Hill Road absolutely shines for it.

That’s right, people. I actually enjoyed (incredibly enjoyed) a book about ghosts.

One of the things that sets this book apart right from the first page is the fact that this is told from the ghost’s (Rose) point of view. You’d think after her tragic death, and so many years of being stuck a teenager wandering the ghost roads, she’d be bitter and angry, but she’s not. I fell in love with Rose instantly. Instead, she’s used her (after) life as a sort of second chance. She goes where the wind takes her, she eats the food given to her, and borrows the coats people loan her. She helps where she can, and learns and grows with each experience.

Sparrow Hill Road is told in a rather unique fashion, like a bunch of interlocking ghost stories that makes up the whole story. Some readers might get kind of exhausted with the individual story feel to everything, but it really was a smart move for McGuire to make when she told Rose’s story. Each individual section is full of information, emotion and atmosphere, and by the time the book was over, I felt like I lived a nice slice of Rose’s life, rather than having a brief overview of one important moment. She became so real to me, and her pitfalls and successes felt gut wrenching due to that.

Sparrow Hill Road is more of a road trip book than anything else. Where a lot of road trip type books might lose some readers, this one is sure to keep you hanging on. Not only is there a nice mystery (stopping Bobby Cross, and just who/what the hell is he, anyway?) but there is so much development and small stories that fill these pages that there’s something here to keep just about anyone engaged. This isn’t about some protagonist mindlessly wandering while the find out who they are. No. Rose knows exactly who and what she is. She has a firm understanding of her strengths and limitations, and if she doesn’t know exactly where she’s going, she at least has a bright goal shining in her mind’s eye pointing the way for her.

It’s refreshing to read a book about a character who is that in control of herself, that self-assured and certain in the face of so much uncertainty.

But if you want me to really boil down why I loved this book so much, I certainly can. Sparrow Hill Road has a lot in it to make readers thrilled. However, it’s the writing that made me shiver with excitement. I always knew McGuire was one hell of an author, but until I read Sparrow Hill Road, I never really realized how much of an artist she is. She writes about driving a truck in such a way that I felt like the damn truck was about to fly out of the book with a cape and superhero outfit and kiss me. I never really realized how poetic traveling could be until she made the road, the wandering life, and all those who freely live it, so incredibly artistic. The whole book is painted with these words that are so artfully strung together. Even if the story had sucked (it didn’t), I would have devoured this anyway. Anyone who can write like that needs to get your attention.

I was honestly blown away – absolutely floored – by the artistic writing of Sparrow Hill Road.

Wow. Just wow.

The ending isn’t necessarily wrapped up as nicely as some readers would want it to be, but I think (and sincerely hope) that it leaves room for McGuire to revisit this world and these characters. This book was more than just a fun read, it was a soul wrenching journey, a walk through the life of one of the most vibrant and alive characters I’ve read in a long time. It’s full of love and longing, discovery, friends, adventures, situations that you’ll remember for a long time. And the writing. Dear god(s)/(whatevers), the writing is just phenomenal.

I really want more.

If there’s one thing Sparrow Hill Road taught me, it’s that I haven’t read nearly enough Seanan McGuire books.

There’s a reason why the name Seanan McGuire keeps getting mentioned in a lot of literary and genre award circles. Anyone with this much raw, potent, word-skill is a force of literary nature.


4/5 stars

4 Responses

  • Maybe not quite my cup of tea at first glance either, I was surprised to learn it takes place in the Incryptid universe.

    • The writing alone makes this book worth reading, and the unique perspective keeps it interesting. It’s worth checking out. I started it feeling rather “uuuugggggg” but ended it all sorts of excited.

  • I’m so glad you liked it! I don’t see McGuire’s books cross my blog dash often for review and it’s a damn shame. I have loved almost everything she’s pumped out and Sparrow Hill is on my list to tackle this week. It was a treat to see Rose mentioned in the latest Incryptid novel as well, I’m hoping the two series cross paths!

  • Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series is on my Top 5 UF list, so of course I preordered this (haven’t gotten around to reading it yet, unfortunately, but it’s only been a week 😉 ). I’m not a huge fan of ghost stories either, and I downright avoid zombies (but I made an exception for Feed), so I’m glad to hear how much you liked this. Soon!

    Jessica @ Rabid Reads

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