Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Book Review: Sparrow Hill Road

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

So you've heard the story about Rose Marshall right?  How she died on the way to her prom and became a ghost?  Some say she leads men to their deaths when they offer her a ride, others claim she's only trying to save the ones who aren't too far gone.  Whatever you've heard this is her story; the story of how a small town 16 year old girl who just wanted more from life could turn into an urban legend everybody knew.

Unlike a lot of folk going into this book cold I knew that the "Rose Marshall" stories were episodic and at one time spread across the internet as far as possible.  I went into the book knowing this and thus wasn't surprised or irritated by the repetition from time to time.  Rose spends half of her time educating the reader (or newly dead) on what it means to live in the Twilight.  What you lose, what you gain, what the rules are that govern those who travel the Ghost Roads. 

Rose is a "Hitcher" or a "Hitchhiker", she's drawn to those who live their life on the road or will die because of it.  That young girl you see on the side of some lonely back road or hanging at a diner off the beaten track?  Probably Rose.  She'll hitch a ride to get to where she needs to go and maybe, if you're very lucky and your time hasn't come, she can even prevent you from dying on the road.

As she explains the stories aren't told in a very linear fashion, not til closer to the end when they begin to bleed into one and other and you can't have one without the other.  By in large a good half of the book can be read in whatever order you want.  I'm not sure  if MacGuire (or her editor or Publisher) decided to mix them up even more.  What I can say is that some details you'll read about in one chapter, you won't find out the truth of the tale until a later chapter.  And some truths are harder to handle then others.

Woven throughout is Rose's crusade to stop "Bobby Cross" (the man who killed her to become an immortal legend) and her resolve to prevent him from doing to others what he did to her.  Sometimes she's successful, other times she's not, but through it all she has a grim determination and resolve.  Its more then revenge, though several characters ask her if that's what it is to her.  She found a purpose in her aimless wandering after life and she was bound and determined to make it through.

I really liked Rose--she's much more practical and pragmatic then many of the characters running around in fiction, especially of those who are "teenagers", but not really (looking at you every single teen vampire/immortal out there).  She didn't stay "stuck" in time, she moved on, she grew and expanded and learned how to work the system.  She's not without her flaws of course, and we see as she makes mistakes that she later reflects on and realize it was really dumb to not notice the issues, but she felt so very real.

Insofar as other recurring characters go there are a few--Emma, the bean sidhe who Rose befriends, Tommy who she once asked for a ride from, Bobby Cross who we don't meet in the "flesh" until later in the book but who's shadow is long and dark.  Emma is likeable and given more depth then either Tommy or Bobby in my opinion.  Bobby is...he's portrayed as a certain kind of guy who many of us know or know of. 

There's some loose-ish ends that don't get as much tying up, comments from Rose that drift away as her confrontation with Bobby looms, snippets of conversations that she doesn't focus on in her pursuit. And this book can get downright creepy and spooky, though I found myself feeling sorry for many of the people Rose comes across.  Some of them just don't know any better, which is sad and pitiful no matter if you are alive or dead.