A too-short novel that handles the delicacy of memory, nostalgia, growing up in the 80s, and ghost stories. Craig Davidson’s poignant and engaging The Saturday Night Ghost Club is an emotional and compelling read.
Jake, the story’s narrator relates to the reader a coming-of-age summer as he, his new best friend, the friend’s sister, and his Uncle Calvin form the Saturday Night Ghost Club. As they wander the highways and byways of Niagara Falls (or Cataract City as the locals call it) the boys grow up and discover that a person doesn’t have to believe in ghosts to be haunted.
The narrative compels, and is filled with the paraphenalia of a time period that I myself lived through, and could relate to the things the boys explored and were fascinated by. I could relate to these characters.
Beautifully told through the eyes of a grown man looking back on his youth made me wonder about the things that haunted the adults in my life when I was a boy, and just beginning to realize that they were people too with lives of their own, a history that I knew nothing of.
The relationship that develops between Jake and his pal Billy feels authentic, as is the first crush Jake has on Billy’s sister, Dove. It’s his interactions with his uncle, Calvin, that really resonate, and truly drive the narrative and the events that shaped that one summer as Jake slowly transitions into the man he’s going to grow into, and perhaps influences the career he takes on.
Davidson’s storytelling style, his way with words and imagery, brings those summer nights to life with an ease and familiarity that is akin to walking through one’s own memories. I recall nights similar to this, exploring the dark with flashlights, scaring ourselves silly with spooky stories, never thinking how those telling the tale or those listening could be affected or the grains of truth (from a certain point of view) that may be hidden in them.
He thanks Stephen King in his acknowledgements and you can see that influence on the way he recreates the youth of his 80s. He mentions things that put the reader right back there in it, and it allows you to empathise with the character of Jake, relate to him, and see yourself in his role.
And that, of course, makes the climax of the story all the more poignant. It’s a beautiful novel, my only complaint being that it’s too short. I would have happily bummed around with Jake for that entire summer and see where each day and eve took us.
Davidson is a captivating storyteller, and this poignant haunting tale is so worth the read. Check it out!