Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuire

“Rose Marshall died in 1952 in Buckley Township, Michigan, run off the road by a man named Bobby Cross—a man who had sold his soul to live forever, and intended to use her death to pay the price of his immortality. Trouble was, he didn’t ask Rose what she thought of the idea.

It’s been more than sixty years since that night, and she’s still sixteen, and she’s still running.

They have names for her all over the country: the Girl in the Diner. The Phantom Prom Date. The Girl in the Green Silk Gown. Mostly she just goes by “Rose”, a hitchhiking ghost girl with her thumb out and her eyes fixed on the horizon, trying to outrace a man who never sleeps, never stops, and never gives up on the idea of claiming what’s his. She’s the angel of the overpass, she’s the darling of the truck stops, and she’s going to figure out a way to win her freedom. After all, it’s not like it can kill her.

You can’t kill what’s already dead.”

I’ve read just about everything McGuire has written, including the books under her pen name, Mira Grant. Her books have at various times made me giggle uncontrollably and hold back tears, all in public. Sparrow Hill Road lives up to everything that I expect of this fine author, and surpasses those expectations handily.

The structure of this book was not what I expected, as it reads somewhat like a series of short stories about a single character, Rose Marshall. This isn’t a style that I’ve seen from this author before, but I felt that for this story, it worked very well. This novel is as much about the ambience and ghost lore as it is about a specific plotline. The format allowed McGuire to bring in a lot of backstory about hauntings and different kinds of ghosts while still keeping a loose framework around Rose’s quest to free herself from the man who killed her.

I found myself really liking Rose, a reluctant guardian angel of the road. It’s her compassion that draws the reader, the kind of caring that allows her to aid the newly dead as they pass on to whatever comes next even though she’d rather not have to be a part of their fate. She’s feisty, fallible, and if there are ghosts on the highways, I hope they’re all like her.

McGuire did a great job with the story’s antagonist as well. He’s truly creepy, driving a car evocative of Stephen King’s Christine and bringing with him the rebellious air of a demonic “Leader of the Pack” character. Both him and the circumstances that made him what he is underpin much of the story and draw on older legends of magical places like the crossroads. I do love how McGuire can weave mythologies together and make them sing.

Once again, Seanan McGuire has a hit on her hands. Sparrow Hill Road was a surprising treat, unlike anything else she’s written to date but just as emotionally engaging and fun to read as all of her other work. Please do yourself a favor and pick this one up. It’s a good introduction to the author’s work, but more than that, it’s just a damn good read.

This review was originally posted on May 23, 2014.

This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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