Rose Marshall died on Sparrow Hill Road in 1952. Dressed in her green prom dress, out looking for a date who never picked her up, she is run off the road by Bobby Cross. Now she haunts North America, guiding lost souls home. She’s been called the Girl in the Green Silk Gown, the Phantom Prom Date, the Woman in the Diner, and the Ghost of Sparrow Hill Road. She’s really a hitchhiking psychopomp, bound to highways and truck-stops and roadside diners, who tastes death in the air and saves the lives she can while also helping the newly dead souls find their way into the twilight. Rose will forever be stuck in the guise of a 16-year-old, but isn’t innocent anymore.
This is the first book in the Ghost Roads series, first published in 2014, reissued and with a new cover now that the second book, The Girl in the Green Silk Gown, is set to be released in July. Jumping back and forth through time, Sparrow Hill Road introduces readers to Rose Marshall. I wasn’t sure what exactly to expect when I started reading as the beginning meanders around a bit. Rose talks about her small town life in Buckley Township, Michigan and the night she died. But there is also quite a bit of page time spent wandering the ghost roads with her as she hitches rides and tries hard to guide those travelers away from the death that is awaiting them up the road. Some times she succeeds and sometimes she fails, but all the while her legend grows and evolves.
I hadn’t realized when I picked this book up that it was originally put out as a serial, but it makes sense. Once the reader gets through the introductions and ghost stories and is finally comfortable with the world Rose inhabits, the main plot starts to take shape. Rose is still being chased by the man who killed her, Bobby Cross, and is determined to end his reign of terror. Her journey will take her across the country looking for help and then back home again. She never gives up, but always remains aware that he is the one who could end her existence for good. And even though she would have preferred to experience life beyond the age of sixteen, she’s gotten used to the life she does have. She takes her comforts where she can. Milkshakes at the Last Chance Diner and small talk with her bestie Emma. Borrowed coats that give her the ability to be corporal for a short time and freely given truck stop food that tastes like heaven. She may still look like a girl of sixteen, but she’s grown much wiser in the years since her death. She’ll need help in her quest, and fortunately for her, she’s made friends throughout her travels.
Seanan McGuire weaves stories I love to read. She’s so imaginative and original. I knew I would enjoy Sparrow Hill Road as soon as Rose introduced herself and started to tell her story in the first chapter. This book leaves off in a way that keeps the reader guessing, but gives them just enough closure to be able to wait for what comes next. I’m looking forward to reading the second book in the series when it releases in July. Final Grade-B
I have never wanted to punch a highway in the face as badly as I do right now.