Read The Shadow Year by Jeffrey Ford Online


In New York's Long Island, in the unpredictable decade of the 1960s, a young boy laments the approaching close of summer and the advent of sixth grade. Growing up in a household with an overworked father whom he rarely sees, an alcoholic mother who paints wonderful canvases that are never displayed, an older brother who serves as both tormentor and protector, and a youngerIn New York's Long Island, in the unpredictable decade of the 1960s, a young boy laments the approaching close of summer and the advent of sixth grade. Growing up in a household with an overworked father whom he rarely sees, an alcoholic mother who paints wonderful canvases that are never displayed, an older brother who serves as both tormentor and protector, and a younger sister who inhabits her own secret world, the boy takes his amusements where he can find them. Some of his free time is spent in the basement of the family's modest home, where he and his brother, Jim, have created Botch Town, a detailed cardboard replica of their community, complete with clay figurines representing friends and neighbors. And so the time passes with a not-always-reassuring sameness—until the night a prowler is reported stalking the neighborhood.Appointing themselves ad hoc investigators, the brothers set out to aid the police—while their little sister, Mary, smokes cigarettes, speaks in other voices, inhabits alternate personas . . . and, unbeknownst to her older siblings, moves around the inanimate residents of Botch Town. But ensuing events add a shadowy cast to the boys' night games: disappearances, deaths, and spectral sightings capped off by the arrival of a sinister man in a long white car trawling the neighborhood after dark. Strangest of all is the inescapable fact that every one of these troubling occurrences seems to correspond directly to the changes little Mary has made to the miniature town in the basement.Not since Ray Bradbury's classic Dandelion Wine has a novel so richly evoked the dark magic of small-town boyhood. At once a hypnotically compelling mystery, a masterful re-creation of a unique time and place, a celebration of youth, and a poignant and disquieting portrait of home and family—all balancing on a razor's edge separating reality from the unsettlingly remarkable—The Shadow Year is a monumental new work from one of contemporary fiction's most fearless and inventive artists....

Title : The Shadow Year
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780061231520
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 289 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Shadow Year Reviews

  • Lisa
    2019-03-25 18:18

    I loved the stars out of this book.Sometimes it's the books I love most that are the hardest for me to review. Probably because the books I love most are hard to classify, a bit odd, a bit spooky, a little off somehow. What can I say about this book? I love how it's written. I loved every single oddball character. From the first chapter I knew I had found something special. I didn't want to get too excited: what if it took a turn for the worst. It never did. Every page was great, and the ending was everything. If you like Graham Joyce and Jonathan Carroll and Michael Bedard, this is something you should check out. It's of that ilk: something strange is going on, but what? In the meantime, life goes on...until.

  • Ben Loory
    2019-04-04 17:47

    from what i've read of jeffrey ford so far, it seems he bounces back and forth between two basic styles; the first is a dreamlike but intensely focused high fantasy, which could be about virtually ANY POSSIBLE OR IMPOSSIBLE WORLD OR WORLDS, and the second is a kind of incandescently fog-enshrouded semi-autobiographical mode more or less about his childhood growing up on long island... of course the reality of his childhood stories always seems to bleed over and end up about a hair's breadth away from some utterly unrecognizable possibly hellish otherworld... but in any case, this book seems to be about as "realistic" as ford gets... i don't like this mode quite as much as the other, but his writing's still wonderfully fluid and a joy to read; every chapter is a perfect, almost self-contained story, and the novel as a whole is mysterious and beautiful and very, very funny and frightening (like everything he writes, it seems)... it's just it comes off a little too much like to kill a mockingbird or the childhood parts of stephen king's it for my taste... it's just not as dazzlingly different as his other stuff... parts of it also remind me of loewinsohn's Magnetic Field... not that that's by any means a bad thing...

  • Alissa Patrick
    2019-04-21 17:36

    I really liked this novel. It had so many different components to it, and together they just worked. I loved that it was set in the 1960s, I loved all of the siblings (especially quirky, somewhat magical Mary) and how they took care of each other and worked together to solve the town mystery. With the nostalgia, the air of creepiness and the way the characters interacted it almost felt "Stranger Things"- like. If that show was set in the 60s, it would be this book.

  • Oscar
    2019-04-08 11:45

    La trama se sitúa en Long Island, en los años 60, y el protagonista narra en primera persona lo que le sucedió cuando tenía unos 11 años. Este vive junto a su hermano mayor Jim y su hermana pequeña Mary, así como con su madre alcoholizada, y un padre que siempre está trabajando. Los abuelos viven en una especie de casa adosada.Toda la historia transcurre entre los nostálgicos recuerdos del narrador, donde destaca la figura de un mirón que acosa a los vecinos, adjudicándose el papel de investigadores tanto él como sus hermanos.‘El año sombrío’ (The Shadow Year, 2008), del escritor estadounidense Jeffrey Ford, ganó el Premio Mundial de Fantasía del año 2009, para mí de manera incomprensible, ya que el elemento fantástico es mínimo. Y terror tampoco hay, solo un poco de suspense. En fin, que no ha sido lo que me esperaba.

  • Adam
    2019-04-05 15:47

    Continued proof of my idea that Jeff Ford can write anything, and while I may have doubts when I read the bookflap, once I’ve read that first sentence I can’t stop turning pages until it’s done. The example this time is the coming of age/autobiographical tale not something I would seek out normally. Of course it’s Jeff Ford, so the painful bittersweet memories are mingled with gothic horror, surrealism, ambiguous mystery, and lingering sadness. He takes his excellent novella “Botch Town” and expands into a full length novel, which I don’t want to give away any detail of the plot as it’s too good, but it has laugh out loud humor, great characters, stories upon stories(like Dinesen storytelling is big Ford trope),a vision of evil(like Melville, McCarthy, and the Teshigahara/Kobo Abe movie “Pitfall” it’s represented by the color white), questioning of the underpinnings of reality (What are Mary’s powers? Botch Town? The notebook?), and what order is put on reality by our interpretation of it, and other mysteries. And the biggest question as when I’ve encountered Ford’s aubiographical stories before (which follow more of a Borgesian tradition on the style than a naturalistic one), is what is real and what is not?

  • Randee
    2019-03-22 16:48

    I am partial to well written stories told from a child's viewpoint. For instance, I enjoy Martha Grimes' 'Emma Graham' series (boo hoo...only 4 titles) more than her Richard Jury detective. I often think I could write a book if someone held a gun to my head, but I am pretty sure I wouldn't do a good job of writing a story where a child is the narrator. I'm not sure why. My father always called me the perpetual teenager (he didn't mean this a compliment) but I think there was way too much adult in me when I was a child. And probably too much child in me now as an adult. Some of us just can't get it right. Anyhow, this charmer narrated by the middle son about a year in his family's life in small town Americana was top notch in my opinion. It's written so well. Two brothers and their younger sister are on to some strange doings around their town. It reminded me a great deal of 'Something Wicked This Way Comes'. I mean that as a compliment. Ray Bradbury is one of the true masters. I am anxious to read more by this author. I loved this story and I have a feeling that whatever story he tells will be interesting.

  • Greg
    2019-04-12 12:34

    I've meant to read Jeffrey Ford for awhile now, and getting a chance at a free book I went with it. I have to say that I really enjoyed it, although it was quite flawed, the flaws themselves added a certain character to the book. The book is sort of a 1960's suburban novel, sort of like The Way the Crow Flies, and it almost feels like it could be set in the same neighborhood as Revolutionary Road, but unlike these two wonderful books, this one departs into a certain magical realism, told with the swirling inconsistency of a child's point of view. I have some problems with the book, but I'm not sure if they will be fixed between now and the release of the proper trade edition, even with some of the continuity problems that I thought the book suffered from, they add a charm to the book.

  • Melissa
    2019-03-27 14:48

    I read this book about SIX years ago (geez...doesn't seem like it was that long ago)! Talk about original and...well, really, pure genius. This coming of age horror novel really does have it all, including a sense of humor. Now that I've mentioned it, I'm going to have to read it again. My review couldn't possibly do this book the justice it deserves. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

  • Kristine
    2019-03-24 12:46

    Laugh-out-loud funny and creepy too!3/12/15 - I just reread this book and loved it as much as the first time!

  • Manuel Antão
    2019-04-14 16:47

    If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.Downbeat and Offbeat Fiction: “The Shadow Year” by Jeffrey Ford "Her small stature, dark, and wrinkled complexion, and the silken black strands at the corners of her upper lip made her seem to me at times like some ancient monkey king. When she’d fart while standing, she’d kick her left leg up in the back and say: ‘Shoot him in the pants. The Coat and vest are mine.’” In “The Shadow Year” by Jeffrey Ford The world-wide craze for superheroes is obvious. We all see ourselves as passive victims and don't expect to rescue ourselves. There's also the national craze for vampires and zombies in books, TV, movies, and the web. It may seem odd that a deeply Christian country is also obsessed with vampires, but as Joseph Glanvill wrote in the 1600s, if you deny the existence of demons and witches, you deny god. I see it as another form of projection: a few survivors are surrounded by the dead, i.e., the masses of the unemployed and soon-to-be-unemployable. I’m thinking USA here. Magical realism is a bit like SF, where colorful, fanciful personas, places and technologies are used to explore all too real attitudes, trends and prejudices. It could be said that Ford's take on it is America's second exploration of the genre, since it was also prevalent in the 50's and 60's (and to some extent the 70's) with the proliferation of pulp magazines, SF publications (also the birth of the modern comic book) and SF movies and TV shows (Outer Limits, Twilight Zone, Star Trek).  

  • Maicie
    2019-03-27 14:38

    I’m old enough to remember when neighborhoods were safe enough for children to roam free. It was no big deal for me, along with my playmates, to disappear for hours and hours. A sharp change from today where, if a child is out of sight for more than a few minutes, a parent finds their heart lodged in their throat.The Shadow Year revisits those days of innocence. The author uses a lot of his own childhood in the story (according to his website) which brings the tale to life. It is reminiscent of Boy's Life, one of my favorite books. I will definitely read more of this author

  • Tim Martin
    2019-03-24 10:22

    _The Shadow Year_ is a skillfully written book that is as much gripping childhood narrative as it is a horror/fantasy story and a wonderful dose of nostalgia. It succeeds at being all three things and I found it a gripping read all around.The story centers on an unnamed narrator (if he was named I missed it), a boy in his final year of elementary school. His life centers around his older brother Jim, occasionally a bit of a torment to the narrator but most of the time a protector and friend he spends a lot of time with, his sister Mary (an interesting character, she has strange abilities with numbers and has more than one personality – the main alternate one is named Mickey, but also there is a Sally, Sandy, and Mrs. Harkmar – seen as playing by the adults but accepted rather matter-of-factly by the two brothers), his mother (who is most of the time in the grips of rather obvious alcoholism, occasionally coming out of the fog of wine to artistically paint or be more active with her children), his father (who works multiple jobs, generally coming home at midnight and only seen by the kids usually on the weekends, doing the best he can to be a good dad), and their grandparents Nan and Pop (who live in apartment that is part of their house). Though Jim is starting to get a few friends in school as he joins the wrestling team, for the most part the three siblings only have each other (well Mary has several imaginary friends). Most of the narrator’s interactions with his classmates are either to be fascinated by their weirdness or more often avoid them so he doesn’t get in fights. The book is set in the early or mid-1960s (sometime after 1963 I gather) on Long Island, in a small town that the two brothers know well. They know their small town in the way that generations through the 1980s knew their home, by walking, bike riding, taking short cuts, playing in the woods, and looking for real or imagined treasures often miles from home. Apparently a very much ended era, the two boys (and occasionally Mary) would spend hours from home, their parents having no idea where they were, the boys seeking their own entertainments, their childhood geography a mixture of the real, the imagined, and the emphasis a young boy might place on a particular aspect of a place, with their real map perhaps marking paces such as a “kingdom of crickets” (“in the early fall, among the goldenrod stalks and dying weeds,” something most adults wouldn’t even notice or care about), a lake that the boys were told was bottomless (one they suspect is probably not, realizing that they were maybe being told that by concerned parents, but with more than enough childhood sense of wonder to imagine that it might really be bottomless), their pathways not just named streets but shortcuts through fields and forests that lead behind particular people’s house or to the school or local shops, some they could ride their bikes on, others that they had to walk or even climb. And I did say real map, as Jim (with some help from the narrator) had constructed in the basement of their home something called Botch Town, a miniature cityscape made from toys and trash, with local houses, the school, roads, interesting areas of the woods, and individual neighbors represented. Quite accurate, the boys would show the activities of all the local neighbors, be they adult or kid, some of these activities recorded in notebooks. What might have just been an interesting and well-written childhood narrative took some unusual turns. One, a prowler is apparently in the neighborhood, briefly glimpsed climbing ladders or peering into windows at night, all attempts to get a good look let alone catch the man ending in failure on the part of both the local police and the siblings’ neighbors. Two, the boys start to fear a mysterious man in white, one they come to call Mr. White, who drives around in a white car and they think is responsible for some local disappearances. Three, figures in the town start to move without either Jim or his brother having moved them, the person responsible they discover is Mary. Far from getting angry at their little sister, they fully accept her mysterious powers, especially when she is proven right again and again about where Mr. White or the prowler is, two mysteries that the two boys take upon themselves to solve. The mysteries of Mary’s powers, Mr. White, and the prowler were quite interesting and conveyed in a fascinating way, almost in a form of magical realism; the boys simply accepted that say Mr. White had evil powers or that Mary had access to knowledge (or ways of processing it) that she shouldn’t reasonably have. At times I was left wondering was this the force of childhood imagination at work or was this something really supernatural? Or both? The writing was evocative and descriptive, with some really well written passages. Here is a favorite, that shows a childhood appreciation of things that not all adults retain as well an outdoorsy child’s knowledge of the local neighborhood: “The days sank deeper into autumn, rotten to their cores with twilight. The bright warmth of the sun only lasted about as long as we were in school, and then once we were home, an hour later, the world was briefly submerged in a rich honey glow, gilding everything from the barren branches of willows to the old wreck of a Pontiac parked alongside the Hortons’ garage. In minutes the tide turned, the sun suddenly a distant star, and in rolled a dim gray wave of neither here nor there that seemed to last a week each day.” I will definitely seek more of this author to read in the future.

  • Alan
    2019-04-19 13:35

    This is a story with children in it, but it is by no means a story for children. It is a short tale, told in relatively simple terms and from the viewpoint of a child, but it is by no means lightweight. The Shadow Year has been compared to Ray Bradbury's work, and rightly so, up to a point... but even at their darkest, Bradbury's fantasies seem to me altogether less weighty than Ford's.The Shadow Year simply feels real to me - which makes sense; Ford states in his acknowledgements that he drew largely on his own childhood for this tale of the late 20th Century. A ceaseless accumulation of small details (many of which I remember from my own childhood) helps make it so. This particularity is one of the book's great strengths.Concrete imagery abounds - Nan's butter-and-sugar sandwiches; old Christmas lights full of a colored liquid that bubbles when it gets hot; a movie about a giant praying mantis caught on a weekend TV matinee... these are all things I remember, too.The spectres in Ford's book are also, by and large, real-life bogeymen with which I was, sadly, all too familiar: parental alcoholism and reduced circumstances at home; bullying by peers and arrogant, careless teachers at school.All of these things make the few fantastic elements of The Shadow Year stand out in contrast as all the more significant. And even there, Ford's gift for particularity grounds the work. One of the most overtly fantastic elements of the book, the basement city of Botch Town with its strange connection to the protagonist's Long Island town, has something of its analogue in my own life: one of my young daughter's friends has a backyard town named Roxeboxen (spelling approximate), which has a detailed street layout, its own currency and laws... though as far as I know Roxeboxen's inhabitants don't ever seem to move around on their own!I've seen this book described as "autobiographical fantasy," which is an apt description. The Shadow Year is a horror novel, a truncated bildungsroman, a work on the border between realism and fantasy... but most of all, it's a book worth reading.

  • Bellezza
    2019-04-13 17:38

    Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine meets Robert MacCammon's Boy's Life meets August Burrough's Running With Scissors in this novel by Jeffrey Ford: The Shadow Years.I found it in the new section of our public library as it was published in March of 2008. The cover grabbed my attention right away, not only from the eerie sensation derived from the title written over dusk, but from the picture of the car's fins that evokes the era of my youth.I'm not quite sure how a narrative from a boy's perspective can speak quite so clearly into the heart and mind of a girl like me: one who was most definitely not a tomboy. And yet, as I read, I found myself relating to every page because of the memories they evoked.Do you remember the school's janitor who came to clean up vomit with the "red stuff" that looked like red rubber erasure scrapings? Do you remember the ads for Ajax cleaner as the White Tornado? Do you remember scaring yourself silly on a summer's night when reality and imagination became so intermingled that they were no longer distinguishable?In Ford's novel, we find a boy just managing to pass fifth grade (his teacher's name? Mr. Krapp) at the school he's nicknamed The Retard Factory. School is the least of his concerns, as the town has discovered a recent prowler, a missing boy, and a mysteriously evil man the kids call Mr. White (because of the long white coat he wears and the long white car he drives). Helping them escape many narrow run-ins with this Mr. White, who seems to appear when no adult is ever present, is Ray Halloway. But, wasn't Ray killed shortly after he moved away with his family a few months ago?We are transported into the mind of a boy, the terror of a child, the fantasies we conjure when we're faced with what we do not understand, through the narrative of the book. Not until the end do we find out who, or what is real, and even then there remains a certain amount of mystery.It is the perfect autumnal read.

  • Megan
    2019-03-31 17:30

    I really enjoyed this creepy tale of a year in a boy's life in the 1960s. There's something really sort of dreamlike and surreal about it, with odd touches that sort of take away the book's anchor with real life. It reminded me a lot of my own childhood, which was spent making up stories and riding around on my bike with my brother (although, of course, we had much less free range than the boys in this book did).There's a large cast of supporting, minor characters in this book, which really brings the flavor of the neighborhood the unnamed protagonist lives in to life. I liked the pervading creepiness better than the horror found in Stephen King's It, because all of the things that happened could easily be waved away as imagination. It actually does make you feel a lot like a little kid who knows something's wrong and nobody will do anything about it. I liked it, but... at times the book is slow and the characters behave in almost mind-numbingly stupid ways - ways that seemed actually pretty out-of-character, and really brought down my enjoyment of the book.I didn't think I'd read anything by this author before, but I see now he writes a lot of short stories and he's had stories in anthologies I've read, so I think I'll look further at his stuff.

  • Sarah
    2019-04-03 16:40

    It turns out I had read the entire first half of the Shadow Year as the short story Botch Town. It was one of my favorite stories in the collection, and I have to say I enjoyed the expanded version even more. The first book it reminds me of is actually Bill Bryson's memoir: it's set in a different decade, but it has a similarly honest feel. It's fiction but it feels autobiographical. I can't recall if the narrator is ever named, so the effect is one of Ford as storyteller rather than writer. There's some mystery involved, and possibly some magic, but most of the magic of the book is in the narrator's pitch-perfect observations of his family and the people who populate his world.On a mostly unrelated note, the jacket cover says that Ford "has been favorably compared to Kafka, Dante, and Caleb Carr," which I found very amusing for some reason. Does favorably compared mean that a comparison was made and he came out better? I usually see the phrase "has been compared to" in promotional material and assume that it was a favorable comparison. 'Cause ya know they wouldn't go around talking about the comparison if it were something bad.

  • Sandi
    2019-04-10 11:19

    The Shadow Year reminded me a lot of Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes and movies like “The Sandlot” and “Stand by Me”. Ford’s adult protagonist relates the story of a pivotal year of his childhood that is tinged with sinister magic. However, it remains unclear if there is really magic involved or if the supernatural interpretation is a result of childhood imagination. It is extremely well-written and compelling.Kevin T. Collins is an excellent narrator. He doesn’t sound old, but he doesn’t try to sound like a kid either. It really felt like he was telling me the story of his own shadow year.

  • Morgan
    2019-03-26 10:24

    Jeffory Ford shows me yet again why he is my favorite author. This book stands as one of the most striking pieces of fiction I read last year. It's a coming-of-age novel and a statement on dysfunctional families that partially masks itself as a creepy mystery story. A creepy face in the window, a prowler in the neighborhood, murders, missing children, supernatural happenings, and laugh out loud moments. The time is the 1960s and the location is Long Island, during a kinder, more gentler time when a family's secrets and failings were kept religiously guarded behind closed doors. Absolutely amazing. If you have not read any of his work, then by all means, get your ass to the bookstore!

  • Nadia
    2019-04-02 16:46

    I enjoyed the way that Ford captured the transition from childhood to adolescence. There is a sense of mystery about the world that we lose as we become adults. At the end the line between fantasy and reality is blurred: the peeper who was so real to the adults turns out to be a ghost, and Mr. White is in fact a predator out to do harm (not just the scary guy who lives on the other side of town).The children, meanwhile, accept their lives without question (the father they never see, their alcoholic mother). In that sense this book reminded me of Terry Gilliam's movie Tideland (albeit more grounded and much less absurd).

  • Maddy Will
    2019-03-21 17:42

    This book struck so many chords with me. It's such a relatable story of childhood adventures, the feeling of us-against-the-adults, and the bittersweetness of growing up, set around an other-worldly mystery. I couldn't put the book down, but didn't want it to end. Definitely a story that will stick with me for a while.

  • Paul Patterson
    2019-03-27 10:36

    'The Shadow Year' chronicles the lives of three children living in a dysfunctional family with an alcoholic mother and an absentee father during the 1960's. Despite their difficulties the children are creative and imaginative. Together in their basement they invent a cardboard reconstruction of their hometown. Through a strange combination of mathematics and intuition, Mary, who may be borderline autistic or schizophrenic, directs the structure of the town with its clay characters who represent real-life people. Mary's two brothers discover an uncanny correspondence between the positioning of Mary's figures in her play construction and the precise geographical location of the townspeople as they go about their business. Much of the threesome's fun involves spying on the townsfolk using Mary’s vision map. As the game proceeds the children become more concentrated upon the board and how it manipulates itself without any aide from Mary. The children awake from their sleep with new revelations and clues about the town's underside, the mysteries that lie behind criminal events from simple peeking-tommery to murder.The Shadow Year reads like Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird or Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury, not only in the children's precociousness but also in its semi-poetic style. I was impressed by the wisdom of the children's observations about adult life and its inauthenticity -- read hypocrisies. These apparently disadvantaged children prove to be exceptionally patient with their mother's alcoholism and their father's absence. They develop an empathic understanding of why their parents are the way they are; even though they would like Mom and Dad to be significantly different they unconditionally accept them. They are considerably less generous with their teachers and other authority figures whom they see as fumbling dolts. The Shadow Year is undoubtably a 'bildungsroman', a growing up story, in whose center lies the transformation of a child into a young adult. The reader is shown what is jeopardized in this maturing process, the harmony with and loyalty to those we love. As the threesome mature they differentiate from one another but their memories of playing the game together renews their individual characters as they move forward.The Shadow Year is no mere commentary on development. It also includes the introduction of spiritual and metaphysical themes. Subtle influences for both good and evil are rife in this story. It is refreshing to see that the children, who while by no means religously orthodox, express gratitude and reliance on that which is beyond their senses. They learn to maintain trust in the unknown, overriding their nascent skepticism.The Shadow Year resurrects our own shadow years. This is especially the case for those, like myself, who grew up in the 60's. The children alive during the time of Lyndon B. Johnson's presidency. The sights and sounds of that time permeate the book, all the way from Bazooka bubblegum with its inserted waxy comics to candy floss that transmutes from the texture of cobwebs to the disagreeable taste of blobs of pure sugar. While reading The Shadow Year the unused part of my reader’s mind went back to my own childhood with its sights and sounds, friendships and adventures that I thought I'd entirely forgotten. I wholeheartedly recommend this book as a way to return to the deep down things that form our character before it was obscured through our frantic quest for individuality and success. Ultimately, it is a book about community and how weakness can be used not only for survival but also as a means of recovering nobility.

  • KatHooper
    2019-03-26 15:35

    4.5 starsORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.The Shadow Year is a charming coming-of-age tale about the 6th grade year of an average American boy (we never learn his name) growing up in the 1960s. This year isn’t average, though, because there are some strange things going on in his small town. As he navigates his way around mundane matters such as an alcoholic manic depressive mother, a father who holds down three jobs, live-in grandparents, and unpleasant teachers, he’s also concerned with a prowler, a classmate who disappeared, and a strange suspicious man who drives an eerie white car. Things get really creepy when he realizes that the weird things happening around town seem to be linked to the way his possibly-autistic / possibly-savant little sister moves the cars and people around in his older brother’s replica of their town which he works on in their basement.The Shadow Year feels more like mainstream fiction — it’s mostly about coming of age, family relationships, and living in a small town. Except for the wonder at Mary’s abilities, the supernatural elements are down-played and don’t become obvious until the end. The novel reminds me very much of A Christmas Story — that classic movie about Ralphie who wants a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas ("You'll shoot your eye out!"). Similarly, Jeffrey Ford fills his story with over-the-top characters who are fun to read about but who you’re glad you don’t live with and who you have a hard time believing could all co-exist in the same small town.Also similarly, most of the plot revolves around the day to day events in a 6th grade boy’s life: waiting for the ice cream man, trying to complete school assignments with a minimal amount of effort, getting picked on by older kids, skipping church, sneaking out of the house, and trying to keep up with his brave and reckless older brother. These little slices of life are funny, poignant, and so beautifully and vividly described that they often brought a smile to my face and occasionally brought tears to my eyes. Here’s a passage about the ice cream man:Occasionally Mel would try to be pleasant, but I think the paper canoe of a hat he wore every day soured him. He also wore a blue bow tie, a white shirt, and white pants. His face was long and crooked, and at times, when the orders came to fast and the kids didn’t have the right change, the bottom half of his face would slowly melt — a sundae abandoned at the curb…. In a voice that came straight from his freezer, he called my sister, Mary, and all the other girls “sweetheart.”The Shadow Year is worth reading simply for Jeffrey Ford’s excellent imagery and atmosphere, powerful prose, and razor-sharp descriptions of life we can relate to, but it’s also a good mystery with plenty of tension and suspense. The relationship we observe between the boy and his older brother and little sister is truly touching. I have to add, also, that our ability to engage with a character whose name we never know is surprising and indicates Ford’s confidence and courage.Despite its subject material, The Shadow Year is not a book for kids because of the language and sexual content. I listened to Audible Frontier’s production of The Shadow Year which was read by Kevin T. Collins who has an astonishing range of voices at his command. His excellent narration definitely added to my reading enjoyment and I’ll be looking for his name in the future.I’m already on to my second Jeffrey Ford novel. He’s now on my list of must-be-read authors.

  • Scott
    2019-04-12 14:44

    "The Shadow Year" is Jeffrey Ford's sixth novel, and the third I have read. For the description, as usual I go with the write up from Publishers Weekly found at Amazon.Com:... the narrator - a nameless boy growing up on suburban Long Island in the mid-1960s - spends what remains of his summer vacation roaming the neighborhood with his older brother, Jim. At home, money is tight, forcing their father to work three jobs while their mother drinks herself to sleep every night. A prowler may be loose on the streets, and the narrator and Jim see a menacing man in a white car lurking near their house and school. When a local boy disappears soon after school starts, the narrator and Jim are sure Mr. White is responsible. They turn to their younger sister, Mary, for help, after she mysteriously moves figurines in the boys' model town, reflecting events before they've occurred.Along with the two other novels I have read of Ford's, I also have read a collection of short stories and other stories he has had published which have shown up online somewhere, and stories that he posts on his LiveJournal page. With all that I have read, he has become one of my favorite authors. But there was some trepidation in reading this book. The above description is actually a review and it starts "In Edgar-winner Ford's disappointing sixth novel ...." It had me worried. I waited for the trade paperback version to be published, then still waited to actually buy it and read it. I didn't want to read something by him that was going to disappoint me. I certainly wasn't blown away by the book, however it certainly wasn't a disappointment.The story itself was a nice mix of a few things. There were fantastical elements, but was very light on them. There was a coming of age story. There was a thriller. A mystery. It all added up to a good story with an interesting group of characters. And one of the biggest things that made the story interesting was the family itself. It was rather dysfunctional, lending a lot of realism to them. The atmosphere Ford created between them added so much life to the characters. That atmosphere penetrated every aspect of the book.I wouldn't say that this was Ford's best work. I enjoyed the other three books I have read of his work more. There were some unresolved issues in the story. One could argue though that it lent even more realism to it. Some things that happen in your life may never be explained. His attention to detail with many parts of the book, mostly the things surrounding the characters that became part of the story, was fantastic. It gave so much more to the story as a whole.Another good story from one of my favorite authors. Not a good place to start with his work, in my opinion. But certainly far better then the "disappointing" tag put on it on Amazon's site.

  • Chana
    2019-04-18 16:31

    All families are weird, I really don't think that there are any "Normal" ones although certainly some are abusive and destructive and others are weird in a positive way. Most are a mixture of both and hopefully more positive than destructive. This is a "normal" family in a lot of ways. Mom has a lot of chutzpah, drinks a lot and is manic depressive. She loves her kids and does her best. Father works three jobs and sits stoic through his wife's angry times. Brother Jim is tough on anyone who picks on his siblings. He is in charge of their adventures. And he is the creator of Botch Town, a re-creation of their own town and populace made in clay and cardboard. Mary is the spooky little sister who has some numbers thing going on, OCD I guess, but she is able to make some pretty accurate predictions. She is often sitting in the bushes smoking home rolled cigarettes. The grandparents live in an adjoining apartment. Pop has his racing forms, his numbers and his predictions. Nan has her health regiment and her gun. Neither grandparent is to be trifled with in regards to the family. So normal, and not. Like most families. Our main character is the middle child, a little cowardly but willing to follow his brother into all sorts of adventures. He seems the most normal of the three but perhaps not. You will have to read it and make up your own mind. During the Shadow Year there is a creepy ice cream man, a man in white in a big white car who parks in front of people's houses and follows kids around, and a teen-aged boy whose family had moved away but he has come back and lives in secret places in the town. Put it all together and you've got a creepy little book about normal life.

  • Anthony Panegyres
    2019-04-05 14:48

    A reflective memoir-style narrative with each chapter a vignette of its own evoking a vivid sense of place. The Shadow Year explores memories of childhood, as well as family and the neighborhood community all threaded together via surreal mystery - with mystery's accompanying shades of terror and suspense peppered throughout. Ford employs sharp, authentic dialogue and his prose is replete with sensory imagery. This will take you back to your own childhood, but the genre elements and the gentle blurring of 'what is real' and 'what is not' along with Ford's writing make this a marvellous work.

  • Suzanne
    2019-04-09 18:43

    There is a mystery story within The Shadow Year, but it was the coming of age story that really resonated with me. The nostalgia had a wonderful edge to it that made me wonder if the author was drawing upon events from his own childhood, despite how fantastic they sounded. There are hints of the supernatural, but at that blurry interface between childhood and adolescence, the line between imagination and reality is hazy, too, right?I was surprised by what a page-turner this was for me. I look forward to checking out more of Ford's books.

  • Rusty
    2019-04-16 17:47

    The Shadow Year by Jeffrey Ford is an outstanding read. The author does a wonderful job with characterization. I felt as if I was in the narrator's head. Story development is excellent, well thought out and the book flowed so smoothly that it was over before I knew it. This is a historical mystery told from the view of a child. The emotions, imagination, and views of all the children are so good. I really liked the book and hope to read more by this author.

  • Michael
    2019-03-28 17:31

    I enjoyed this one despite its shortcomings. As a suspense novel, it wasn't very suspenseful. As a coming-of-age novel, it failed as well, as I didn't feel much connection to the main characters. On top of that, the ending was anticlimactic.And yet for all of that I still liked the book - just not enough to recommend it to anyone else.

  • Rachel Jones
    2019-03-28 17:29

    this book never hooked me - but some fine writing all the same. story of a boyhood summer, during which deep and dark things happen, involving an alcoholic mother, neighborhood bullies, slightly insane sister, slightly dangerous older brother, and a very creepy man in a white suit.

  • Joshua Buhs
    2019-03-30 16:24

    Never quite coheres.Ford's book is a nostalgic book about a pre-adolescent dealing with growing up, and also (possibly) transcendental horrors. Yeah, it's about the 8 millionth entry into the genre, but I like 'em: they're like potato chips, not filling, but still satisfying. This one, though, never comes together--doesn't fulfill or satisfy.The very first part of the book is what's to be expected, an elliptical overview, a remembrance of weird things from a time long gone, not all of which make sense. The evocation of a distant past isn't as rich as it could be, put the book still gets its hooks into you.The next third or so don't really succeed on its early promise. The narrative is fragmented, and the lack of detail continues until it grates--as though he is aware of the genre's conventions but refuses to cash in on them (which can be fine, but here is done for no obvious reason). Ford seems to either have trouble keeping track of his story, or is after something I do not quite get: characters come and go without rhyme or reason; there are blatant contradictions in the plot, sometimes on the same page; thematic elements are taken up, then dropped. The relation of the narrator to the rest of the story is odd.Nonetheless, the story is compelling and tension builds up despite everything else. The characters are mostly stock--troubled older brother; possibly autistic but brilliant (and perhaps magical) sister; distant parents; a middle-school narrator who doesn't fit in; the expected crowd of neighborhood eccentrics, dark alleys, and thick woods. A creepy bad guy of unknown provenance and unclear motive; possible allies; the slow construction of a deus ex machina for the final act showdown.But then the book falls apart in the last third. The main mystery peters out with hardly a confrontation. The horrors are mostly explained--which is to be expected, since for the pre-adolescent the horrors are just refractions of mundane adult reality. New elements are brought in, and other mysteries left unresolved. The deus ex machina is never engaged. And the introductory symbols, almost completely gone--indeed, the character that brought them into the story was gone for 2/3rds of the story--suddenly reappear.I get that the book is about different ways of watching, that we are supposed to question what is seen and what can be seen. But these seem like gestures towards thoughtfulness, rather than really embedding the idea within the story. It was a disappointing conclusion, and within a week of reading the book, I was already starting to forget the details.