One of the things that sets Sparrow Hill Road apart from typical ghost stories is the fact that this is told from the ghost’s (Rose) point of view. You’d think that after her tragic death, and after years of being stuck as a teenager wandering the ghost roads, she’d be bitter and angry, but she’s not. Instead, she’s used her (after) life as a sort of second chance. She goes where the wind takes her, 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. I fell in love with Rose instantly.
Sparrow Hill Road is told in a rather unique fashion: interlocking ghost stories that make up the whole novel. Some readers might get exhausted with the individual feel to each piece, but it really was a smart move for McGuire to make when she told Rose’s tale. Each section is full of information, emotion, and atmosphere. By the time the book was over, I felt like I had lived a nice slice of Rose’s life rather than seeing a brief overview of one important moment. She became 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. A lot of road trip books might lose some readers, but this one is sure to keep you hanging on. Not only is there a nice mystery (Rose wants to stop Bobby Cross, and just who/what the hell is he, anyway?) but there is so much development in the small stories that fill these pages that there’s something here to keep just about any reader engaged. This isn’t about some protagonist mindlessly wandering while they find out who they are. Rose knows exactly who and what she is. She has a firm understanding of her strengths and limitations, and if she doesn’t know precisely 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 about a character who is that in control of herself, that self-assured and certain in the face of so much uncertainty.
Sparrow Hill Road has a lot in it to thrill readers. For me, it’s the writing. I never realized how poetic traveling could be until McGuire made the road, the wandering life, and all those who freely live it so incredibly artistic. Even if the story was lacking, I would have devoured this book anyway.
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. It 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, and situations that you’ll remember for a long time.