Title: The Saturday Night Ghost Club
Author: Craig Davidson
Genre: Literary Fiction
Number of Pages: 211
This book is not what I expected.
I guess I didn’t look that hard at the jacket description. The blurb on Goodreads says: A short, irresistible, and bittersweet coming-of-age story in the vein of “Stranger Things” and “Stand by Me” about a group of misfit kids who spend an unforgettable summer investigating local ghost stories and urban legends.
I guess I expected Scooby-Doo type stuff with the kids getting in over their head with their ghost-hunting hijinks. I did not expect to be emotionally devastated at the end. The Saturday Night Ghost Club has no ghosts in it, only the long-lasting effects of trauma and repression. The main character is a chubby, friendless kid who seems closer to his oddball uncle than he is to his parents. He befriends a boy and his sister, and his Uncle Calvin initiates them into a ‘ghost club.’
They go to different locations and Uncle Calvin doesn’t seem overly concerned with the safety of his young charges, but the kids are alternately terrified and exhilarated by their adventures. You never really understand why Uncle Calvin behaves the way he does until the ending, and discovering the extent of his uncle’s psychological pain and turmoil marks the end of Jake’s innocence and a lifelong interest in understanding the human brain.
When you get past the fact that there are NO GHOSTS in a book with ‘ghost’ in the title and a levitating ghost on the cover, this is a beautifully written book about a boy’s increasing awareness of his family’s demons. There was one excerpt that was so beautiful that I wrote it down after I read it, and the whole book is a lot more literary than I was expecting. I thought it was going to have more of a ‘contemporary lit’/beach read feel to it.
Jake’s female friend Dove is a little unbelievable- she gives ‘dark manic pixie dream girl’ vibes and she obviously has a mental illness that is only suggested and is never really given development- but all the other characters are thoroughly plausible and like with Uncle Calvin, you understand the behavior of Jake’s parents more and more as the story progresses.
It really works well because you feel like you’re discovering the secrets of this family along with Jake. I’ll freely admit I got choked up at the end of this book; it’s a wrenching portrayal of what families will do for each other in horrible circumstances and what lies we tell ourselves just so we can exist.