A Gathering of Shades
After Aidan's father tragically dies in an auto accident, he and his mother move to his grandmother's farm in Vermont. He just knows it's going to be hard going here. There will be long, boring days and certainly no one his age around. His grandmother Memere gives him a copy of Homer's THE ODYSSEY telling him it's a book that will help. Then his Uncle Danny (his father's brother) asks him if he would be willing to help out on his farm, and reluctantly he agrees --- after all, he can make some money and it's better than watching his mother mope around.
While all this is happening he can't help but notice how his grandmother leaves for a little walk into the nearby forest every night. She seems to come back refreshed and at ease with the world. When he follows her he is totally taken aback as he watches from his hiding place and sees strange people gathering around her:
…They were virtually silent as they drew closer, with only the faintest rustling of the grass to betray their presence. They crept forward with slow, shy movements, like wild animals unsure of their surroundings, ready to flee at a moment's notice. Strangest of all, there was an indefinite quality to them all, a washed-out element --- as if they'd been left out in the rain too long --- that seemed to blur the edges of their movement.
To his horror he discovers that the figures are ghosts and that they come each night to feed from a small birdbath in which Memere has mixed a few drops of her blood with water. This absolutely goes against everything Aidan has ever believed:
"This is ridiculous, Memere. Ghosts are just in stories and cheesy horror movies. They don't really exist."
"That's right, Aidan. Yet --- here they are," she said.
It is not long before Aidan accepts these strange happenings and sees the possibility that he might even be able to contact his father through the "shades." Although his grandmother warns him against this, he secretly continues until one day he sees a ghostly young boy and begins to think that his father is trying to communicate with him --- or is this his grief out of control?
Meanwhile, Aidan's mother is developing a relationship with Donny. She is also able to get a job for the coming school year teaching English; though deeply grieved, she moves ahead. Aidan, however, is not ready to accept either the relationship or the other things in his life that seem to have gone out of control. His determination to speak with his father becomes even stronger and leads him into a precarious situation.
Through a series of disappointments and overwhelming griefs, Aidan starts to see the connections of all that is happening in his life. His journey is not, after all, so unlike that of Ulysses. These experiences are softened by the strong support of his grandmother and the other loving adults in his life. By the end of the book Aidan realizes how important his family is and the meaningfulness of his grandmother's wise book selection.
David Stahler Jr. has written a book that deals with both the heartbreak of grief and the peace of acceptance. His characters fight against their realities but are ultimately pulled together through grief and love. Teens definitely will find this to be a chilling ghost tale as well as a moving story.
Reviewed by Sally M. Tibbetts on May 10, 2005
A Gathering of Shades
- Publication Date: May 10, 2005
- Genres: Fiction
- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: HarperTempest
- ISBN-10: 0060522941
- ISBN-13: 9780060522940