A Gathering of Shades
David Stahler, Jr.. HarperTempest, $15.99 (304pp) ISBN 978-0-06-052294-0
Stahler (Truesight) delivers a stirring story of pain, love and loss between three generations of a family living in rural Vermont. After 16-year-old Aidan loses his father in a traffic accident, his mother decides to move the two of them from Boston to an area of northern Vermont called the Kingdom, where she and his father grew up. They move in with his maternal grandmother, called Memere because of her French-Canadian roots, in the hometown his father referred to as ""a squalid backwater."" Aidan, relegated to helping his Uncle Donny with farm work, is miserable until he spies on his grandmother and discovers that she communicates with ghosts. The ghosts gather each night in the orchard to sip a bit of Memere's blood that she mixes with water in a bowl (a trick she picked up from Homer's The Odyssey). Meanwhile, Aidan is certain he glimpses his father in the surrounding forests and fields. As his quest to contact his father consumes him, Aidan doesn't notice his mother languishing in a deepening depression and he ignores Memere's cautions about the dangers involved: ""If you really want to say good-bye to your father, then you'll stop chasing him all over this christly mountain. Until you do, you'll have no peace and neither will he."" Stahler keenly explores the tangle of emotions Aidan and his family feel over his father's death. It's a painful, yet ultimately uplifting and rewarding portrait of loved ones holding together through the most difficult of times. Ages 14-up.
Reviewed on: 05/02/2005