The Shadow Year
By Jeffrey Ford
William Morrow, Hardcover, 9780061231520, 304pp.
Publication Date: March 1, 2008
List Price: $25.95*
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In New York's Long Island, in the unpredictable decade of the 1960s, a young boy laments the approaching close of summer and the advent of sixth grade. Growing up in a household with an overworked father whom he rarely sees, an alcoholic mother who paints wonderful canvases that are never displayed, an older brother who serves as both tormentor and protector, and a younger sister who inhabits her own secret world, the boy takes his amusements where he can find them. Some of his free time is spent in the basement of the family's modest home, where he and his brother, Jim, have created Botch Town, a detailed cardboard replica of their community, complete with clay figurines representing friends and neighbors. And so the time passes with a not-always-reassuring sameness—until the night a prowler is reported stalking the neighborhood.
Appointing themselves ad hoc investigators, the brothers set out to aid the police—while their little sister, Mary, smokes cigarettes, speaks in other voices, inhabits alternate personas . . . and, unbeknownst to her older siblings, moves around the inanimate residents of Botch Town. But ensuing events add a shadowy cast to the boys' night games: disappearances, deaths, and spectral sightings capped off by the arrival of a sinister man in a long white car trawling the neighborhood after dark. Strangest of all is the inescapable fact that every one of these troubling occurrences seems to correspond directly to the changes little Mary has made to the miniature town in the basement.
Not since Ray Bradbury's classic Dandelion Wine has a novel so richly evoked the dark magic of small-town boyhood. At once a hypnotically compelling mystery, a masterful re-creation of a unique time and place, a celebration of youth, and a poignant and disquieting portrait of home and family—all balancing on a razor's edge separating reality from the unsettlingly remarkable—The Shadow Year is a monumental new work from one of contemporary fiction's most fearless and inventive artists.
“Properly creepy, but from time to time deliciously funny and heart-breakingly poignant, too. For those of you—and you know who you are—who think the indispensable element for good genre fiction is good writing, this is not to be missed.”
-Kirkus Review, Starred
“Jeffrey Ford is one of the few writers who uses wonder instead of ink in his pen.”
-Jonathan Carroll, author of The Wooden Sea
“Superb, heartbreaking, and masterfully written . . . It’s proof of Jeffrey Ford’s narrative power that, ultimately, the distinction [between real and invented] doesn’t much matter. His made-up world trumps ours.”
-Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction
“Think Ray Bradbury’s Green Town stories, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and Stephen King’s The Body (made into the film Stand by Me) and you get an idea of the tone of Ford’s latest fine work. Grade: A”
-Rocky Mountain News
“Properly creepy, but from time to time deliciously funny and heart-breakingly poignant, too.”
-Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Children are the original magic realists. The effects that novelists of a postmodern bent must strive for come naturally to the young, a truth given inventive realization in this wonderful quasi-mystery tale by Jeffrey Ford.”
-Boston Globe on THE SHADOW YEAR
“Surreal, unsettling, and more than a little weird. Ford has a rare gift for evoking mood with just a few well-chosen words and for creating living, breathing characters with only a few lines of dialogue.”
“The Shadow Year captures the totality of a lived period, its actualities and its dreams, its mundane essentials and its odd subjective imperatives; it is a work of episodic beauty and mercurial significance.”
-Nick Gevers, Locus
“We should be grateful that alongside the firm of Updike, Cheever, Ford & Company there exists, in both fiction and film, an American tradition that depicts the suburbs as places of wonder rather than stultification, discovery rather than predictability.”
-New York Newsday
“Jeffrey Ford’s latest triumph, THE SHADOW YEAR, is as haunting as it is humorous…readers will recognize real talent in Ford’s vivid, unerring voice.”
-Louisville Courier Journal on THE SHADOW YEAR