Kirkus Reviews QR Code
THE SHADOW YEAR by Jeffrey Ford Kirkus Star

THE SHADOW YEAR

By Jeffrey Ford

Pub Date: March 1st, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-06-123152-0
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

From Edgar-winner Ford (for The Girl in the Glass, 2005), a tale about three kids, a small town and the banality of evil.

The narrator is a sixth grader who has an older brother and a younger sister. They have an absentee father who works three jobs and an alcoholic mother. Were it not for the fact that they love each other—though none of them ever speak the word—it would be a family hell-bent on dysfunction. Still, for the most part, they’ve been able to consider themselves ordinary, until the night of the scream, the “shrill scream of a woman, so loud it tore the night open wide.” And so begins the Shadow Year, a year dark with every possibility of violence and loss. Enter the prowler, a tall, thin man with expressionless, skeletal features, white hair, dressed, at every sighting, in a long white coat. People vanish. Shy, awkward little Charlie Edison is the first, and other disappearances follow. There are harrowing confrontations, brushes with death, a brief alliance with a ghostly presence. In their basement the children have constructed a clay and cardboard replica of their local community, its neighborhoods and citizenry, complete with a representation of their elusive nemesis. It’s a town in flux, changing inexplicably and mysteriously. The conviction grows among them that by studying their model, they might be able to chart the terrifying progress of the prowler as he goes about the business of selecting targets. And then one day there’s every reason to believe it’s their own house he’s scoping.

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.