The Shadow Year brings the small town suburbia of the sixties back to life. The narrator is a sixth grader whose life will be disrupted by a series of strange occurrences. A prowler is sighted numerous times; a classmate goes missing; a mysterious man in a big white car makes his appearance; the school librarian goes nuts; people begin to die under mysterious circumstances. The narrator, his older brother Jim, and his younger sister Mary decide to investigate. They keep track of these events in Botch Town, a copy of their neighborhood Jim has built out of cardboard houses and clay figures representing the people living around them.
Soon, the boys discover that Mary has been rearranging the clay figures around Botch Town. And to their dismay, they realizes that these changes are reflected in actual events taking place around them. With Mary's help, the two brothers will make a startling discovery, one that could change their lives forever.
My favorite aspect of The Shadow Year was how Jeffrey Ford is able to bring the reader back to an era that appears to have been forgotten. A time before the internet, the Ipod, the Playstation, and Guitar Hero. If you are in your thirties or over, this novel will make you relive parts of your childhood. There is a certain nostalgia associated with The Shadow Year, a nostalgia which imbues this work with a genuine feel that is seldom seen these days. The book brought back old memories that made me smile and yearn for those forgotten years on more than one occasion. Riding your bike everywhere, the thrill of finding a porn magazine, the excitement of Halloween, and much, much more. . .
You will recognize yourself in Jim, Mary and their brother. You will regognize family members in their own family. You will reminisce about old neighbors when you back to a time when everyone knew everyone around the block.
A compelling blend of mystery and speculative fiction, The Shadow Year is a wonderful read. A relatively short work, weighing in at about 300 pages, but a satisfying reading experience nonetheless.
I doubt that younger readers will get as much out of it. Yet if you grew up in the 60s or the 70s, The Shadow Year will bring back fond memories that will make you cherish this novel even more.
The final verdict: 8/10