Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Literally the Best Reviews: The Saturday Night Ghost Club

 The Saturday Night Ghost Club - Craig Davidson

Penguin Books

224 Pages

Whenever I see a book by an author who lives nearby, and has written a book set in places that are familiar to me, I always grab it eagerly. Such was the case with The Saturday Night Ghost Club by Craig Davidson. He is originally from Toronto and set his book in Niagara Falls, albeit on the Canadian side. I had previously read Davidson’s earlier novel, Cataract City, which was again set in Niagara Falls, Ontario. I was familiar with his books, and I like the homey feel to his narratives.

In The Saturday Night Ghost Club, Jake Baker is trudging through a 1980s childhood. He tends to avoid most other people his age as he struggles through the awkwardness of adolescence. He spends most of his time with his mother’s brother, Calvin. Calvin runs an occult shop in Niagara Falls and has a treasure trove of ghost stories to regale his nephew. Together, they form the Saturday Night Ghost Club where they regularly study the ghosts that haunt the Canadian city and surrounding areas.

When a brother and sister move to town, Jake ends up befriending them and introducing them to Calvin and initiating them into the ghost club. The three kids are often rapt with the stories that Calvin tells them. They hear of a story that sets them off on an adventure to see if there are any traces of the real story that haunts the burned out ruins of an old house. When the truth is finally revealed, the stories are less about ghosts haunting the area, and more about the ghosts that haunt a man.

The ghost stories told to Jake and his friends are told in such a way that it seems like a group of people hunched around a roaring campfire trading tales. Although these stories make up the bulk of this relatively short novel, the real story is how people deal with mental illness, and the innocence of youth. 

Davidson’s writing captured the hero worship that a nephew can have for an uncle, complete with the blindness of that uncle’s shortcomings. Jake’s youthfulness precludes him from understanding how everything that a man goes through in life makes him the man he is today. He is unaware of anything other than what’s happening in front of him. History has little meaning to most kids his age. It is that very innocence that drives this story to its denouement. 

I loved this book. It was a home yarn knitted into a realistic fabric of life in the 1980s. As someone else who entered his teen years in the mid-1980s, there were things I could relate to from both the time period and the awkwardness. The familial lines show the dynamics that are present in each family are explored and written realistically. Davidson has captured the very essence of the human spirit in his writing. A reader will recognize the angst of youth and the needs of the parent to protect their children from ugly realities and guide them through it.

Each character written in The Saturday Night Ghost Club is well rounded and very believable. Each is relatable to the reader and enjoyable to read. Set against a backdrop of a small city hometown, this book will resonate with readers as something that rings familiar, even if all the events don’t ring true to their individual lives. 

Craig Davison has written a masterpiece of a short novel with The Saturday Night Ghost Club. If you’re looking for a quick, afternoon read that will engage you and make you wish there was more, this is the book for you.

Craig Bacon will one day write a novel that takes place in his hometown. He already has the idea and outline. Now he needs to finish the other book projects ahead of it.