Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Saturday Night Ghost Club by Craig Davidson
***The giveaway is now over, thanks to everyone who entered!***
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Coming of Age, Contemporary
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Penguin Books (July 9, 2019)
Length: 240 pages
Author Information: Website
The Saturday Night Ghost Club was pitched to me as a coming-of-age story in a similar vein as Stranger Things, and after reading it I can see why. And yet, it is so much more than that. Craig Davidson, the author of a couple of horror novels I’ve read under his pen name Nick Cutter, delivers a haunting, evocative and curious little tale that can’t really be neatly pigeonholed into any one category. With its themes of growing up, making new friends, and waking up to the realities of life, I also believe that the story’s lessons and ideas are universal enough to be well received by both YA and adult readers.
Most of this story takes place in 1980s Niagara Falls, told in flashback by protagonist Jake Baker, a successful but somewhat melancholic neurosurgeon looking back at how his childhood shaped many aspects of his adult life. As a kid, he was aloof but friendly, somewhat timid but curious. Many of his best memories as a youth involved his eccentric uncle Calvin, an enthusiast of wild conspiracy theories and anything to do with the paranormal and occult. Uncle C owned an amazing shop of curious and other bizarre treasures, and he often helped young Jake get over his fears and anxieties by spinning fanciful yarns of adventure or coming up with fun, exciting games and activities.
The summer of his twelfth birthday, Jake also befriends a pair of siblings named Billy and Dove Yellowbird, and so came about the birth of the “Saturday Night Ghost Club”. Together, the three children fought off bullies, hung out at Uncle C’s shop, and visited the interesting nooks and crannies around town, learning of their colorful and sometimes eerie histories. Gradually coming out of his shell, Jake takes the first steps to becoming a stronger and more confident teenager while learning the value of friendship and family ties.
For anyone who has experienced being an outsider growing up or was always more of the quiet and introspective kid, they will see a lot of themselves in Jake Baker. Told in a style similar to a memoir, our protagonist describes his childhood as one characterized by a loving and supportive family, but his school days were troubled by loneliness relentless bullying. Then Billy and Dove came along, opening doors to a whole new world of possibilities. At twelve years old, Jake hovers at the cusp of adolescence, giving him a distinctive perspective. Despite his troubles, he is passionate, optimistic and still full of imagination—a unique point-of-view which gives this novel a lot of its quirky personality and charm.
Speaking of which, The Saturday Night Ghost Club is a bit of an oddity, much like a lot of its characters. In the story, Jake’s uncle Calvin is literally referred to as an “odd duck”, though he sounds like so much fun to be around, it kinda makes you wish you had an Uncle C in your own life. To be sure, he fits right in with the rest of the cast as well as the setting. As someone who spent many of my formative years growing up in the suburbs of Toronto, Niagara Falls was a frequent summer destination and reading about it in this book provided plenty of nostalgia. In some ways, it is a place of contradictions, and I felt Davidson did a good job capturing its atmosphere and peculiarities. On the one hand, you have the natural beauty of the falls, but drive a little ways and you’ll soon hit the seedier parts. A good chunk of the place is also dominated by tacky tourist attractions, while the rest of it is pretty much your typical sleepy, down-to-earth Canadian town. It’s a city wrapped up romantic, magical notions but for Jake and his friends who live there, it is also the gritty reality. It’s the perfect setting for a story that hovers between the extraordinary and the mundane.
In some ways, it does make this novel hard to classify. The narrative speaks of ghosts and haunted places, but I wouldn’t call it horror. Likewise, there’s plenty of speculation into the occult and paranormal, but I also wouldn’t call it fantasy. The book predominantly follows three tweens, but some of the themes are mature enough to be appreciated by an adult audience so I would also hesitate to label this one strictly YA. That said, the protagonist’s 12-year-old perspective is very convincing, and I can easily imagine the adult Jake reminiscing about his past and thinking about how his experiences with Uncle C, Billy, and Dove have influenced him as a husband, father, and a neurosurgeon.
More so than anything else, The Saturday Night Ghost Club is a precious, artistically written novel about nostalgia and memory. It is at once heartwarming and heartbreaking, looking back at the passage of time and its effects on love, friendship, and family ties. Of course, no child’s life is completely idyllic, but adulthood comes with a whole new set of problems and responsibilities, and the themes in this book touch upon some of these ideas, exploring how one becomes aware of the scary realities of life, wishing for simpler times and the innocence and carefreeness of youth. Like most stories about letting go of the magic of childhood, it is a very touching read a times, and a little sad too, so don’t be alarmed if you find yourself reading the final pages with tears in your eyes. Craig Davidson should be extremely proud of himself for writing such an outstanding and heartfelt masterpiece.
The Saturday Night Ghost Club Giveaway
And now time for the giveaway! With thanks to Penguin Books, the BiblioSanctum is pleased to be hosting a giveaway for one paperback copy of The Saturday Night Ghost Club. With apologies to our international readers, as per the publisher’s terms, the giveaway is open to residents of the US only. To enter, all you have to do is send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your Name and valid Mailing Address using the subject line “SATURDAY NIGHT GHOST CLUB” by 11:59pm Eastern time on Friday, July 19, 2019 and we’ll take care of all the rest.
Only one entry per household, please. The winner will be randomly selected when the giveaway ends and then be notified by email. All information will only be used for the purposes of contacting the winner and sending them their prize. Once the giveaway ends all entry emails will be deleted.
So what are you waiting for? Enter to win! Good luck!