I found Seanan McGuire only recently, through her Wayward Children novellas. Those are beautiful and deep and weird and sad, and they moved me. This little book, a hybrid of a short novel and a short story collection, was a radically different animal. McGuire’s writing was worlds different from what I first experienced in Every Heart a Doorway, so much so that I honestly would’ve never guessed that they were written by the same author if not for her name on the cover. I’m incredibly impressed by McGuire’s chameleon-like ability to change her voice as a writer. The writing here wasn’t as pretty as that in her Wayward Children books, and it wasn’t meant to be. The prose in Sparrow Hill Road is entertaining about all else, with an almost noir feel to our main character’s thoughts, reminiscent of old school detective stories. It was a blast to read.
Rose Marshall is a known all across America. She’s the Girl in the Diner, the Phantom Prom Date, the Girl in the Green Silk Gown. She’s the Ghost of Sparrow Hill Road, and her reputation always precedes her. But she’s not as bad as some of the stories make her out to be. She just wants to hitch a ride, borrow a coat, and help doomed drivers find their way home. And if someone will buy her a burger somewhere in the mix, even better. Rose died on her way to prom when she was sweet sixteen, and she’s been busy ever since, hitching her way across America and helping everyone she can. This book is a taste of her life on the ghostroads of the United States, and there’s never a dull moment.
McGuire created such an interesting American mythos here, the likes of which I haven’t read since I devoured Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. Imbuing the roads that run through our nation like arteries with life and power and personality was an incredibly unique concept. The various road ghosts and routewitches that populate the different levels of these roads, those among the living and those walked by the dead, were fascinating and varied and well fleshed-out. But my favorite idea McGuire presented here was the personality and loyalty that love from an owner can give to their car. Reading about a big-rig truck trying her hardest to protect her driver in a crash, and then the spirit of that vehicle following said driver into death and onto the ghostroads, was such a sweet thought. Cars and trucks that had been well-loved were viewed almost as a hybrid of a loyal dog and a spouse, and I thought that was incredibly original.
If you’re a Supernatural fan, that view of a car will probably bring to mind Dean’s ’67 Impala, lovingly named Baby. I had her in my mind frequently as I read. Actually, I thought about the show almost the entire time I read. If you’re a Supernatural fan, you should definitely read this. The boys would've loved to come across a ghost like Rose. There aren’t enough stories out there told from the perspective of a ghost, especially a friendly one. I wasn’t aware that this book was an off-shoot of one of McGuire’s larger series, InCryptids, but it stood just fine on its own. That being said, I'll definitely be reading the InCryptids series soon.
If you love a good ghost story, give it a read. If you love the idea of a hidden American mythos, you’ll dig this. And if you love the show Supernatural, you’re in for a fun ride.