Synopses & Reviews
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.
"In Edgar-winner Ford's disappointing sixth novel, the narrator a nameless boy growing up on suburban Long Island in the mid-1960s spends what remains of his summer vacation roaming the neighborhood with his older brother, Jim. At home, money is tight, forcing their father to work three jobs while their mother drinks herself to sleep every night. A prowler may be loose on the streets, and the narrator and Jim see a menacing man in a white car lurking near their house and school. When a local boy disappears soon after school starts, the narrator and Jim are sure 'Mr. White' is responsible. They turn to their younger sister, Mary, for help, after she mysteriously moves figurines in the boys' model town, reflecting events before they've occurred. The stage is set for suspense, yet Ford (The Girl in the Glass) deflates it at every opportunity with his unresolved subplots. Instead of building to a thrilling climax, the story peters out and loose ends are either forgotten or tied up too neatly." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Properly creepy, but from time to time deliciously funny and heart-breakingly poignant, too. For those of you...who think the indispensable element for good genre fiction is good writing, this is not to be missed." Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"Spooky and hypnotic, this thoroughly enjoyable page-turner may remind some readers of Robert McCammon's Boy's Life, which evokes a similar nostalgic feel of the time period along with a corresponding mystery element to resolve. Recommended." Library Journal
"Like few recent novels, 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." Locus Magazine
"Jeffrey Ford is one of the few writers who uses wonder instead of ink in his pen." Jonathan Carroll, author of The Wooden Sea
An award-winning author turns his talents to nostalgia and youth, bringing the optimism and dark underbelly of 1960s small-town suburbia to life.
About the Author
Jeffrey Ford is the author of seven previous novels, including most recently the Edgar Award-winning The Girl in the Glass. He is a professor of writing and early American literature at a college in New Jersey.