Sparrow Hill Road is a ghost story that reads like a folk song. The book is made of small snippets of story, between refrains about Rose, the ghost of Sparrow Hill Road, a hitcher who travels from one end of America to the other.
Rose is ghost who takes on living flesh when someone gives her a coat. She makes her way hitching with truckers, eating in roadside diners and truck stops (but can only taste what someone living freely gives her). Rose is also a psychopomp, someone who guides the souls of newly dead to their afterlife.
Several of the stories have multiple parts which connect and disconnect from the flow. The author used headings to anchor us in time and place and introduced each scene change so the narrative flow was not confusing.
Overarching all of these vignettes we see Rose desperately trying to stay ahead of Bobby Cross, the man who sold other people’s soul to the cross roads to obtain immortality. Bobby believes he owns Rose’s soul because he ran her off the road and killed her. Rose escaped him then and now. (It’s ridiculous of course to think that someone could obtain a lien on another’s unwilling soul.)
The ghost stories are OK and a few are better than OK. When Rose acts heroically she is interesting and the stories feel whole, complete. Otherwise she is tiresome and the constant repetition about the twilight roads is annoying. Only one character is aware of the spiritual life or death implicit in the ghosts’ actions and Rose herself neither knows nor cares about heaven and hell.
I didn’t care for the repetition refrain in between each story and wasn’t crazy about most of the characters. Sparrow Hill Road is more of a series of short stories and novellas than a true novel and we do not get a resolution for Bobby Cross. He is delayed once again but not stopped. Rose herself rejects travelling to the end of the road, to go to the next place whether heaven or hell and prefers her hitching present.
I would have preferred a story structured more like a novel and not a folk song turned into a semi-novel. A novel requires a heroine with more gravitas than Rose who is lightweight, with not enough going on to carry a full novel. She is suited to a folk song. As a story this is flat.
I received this for free through NetGalley with the expectation of providing an honest review.
Amazon links are ads that pay commission to blog owner.