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The Shadow Year: A Novel Hardcover – March 11, 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; 1st edition (March 11, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061231525
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061231520
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,681,805 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In Edgar-winner Ford's disappointing sixth novel, the narrator—a nameless boy growing up on suburban Long Island in the mid-1960s—spends what remains of his summer vacation roaming the neighborhood with his older brother, Jim. At home, money is tight, forcing their father to work three jobs while their mother drinks herself to sleep every night. A prowler may be loose on the streets, and the narrator and Jim see a menacing man in a white car lurking near their house and school. When a local boy disappears soon after school starts, the narrator and Jim are sure Mr. White is responsible. They turn to their younger sister, Mary, for help, after she mysteriously moves figurines in the boys' model town, reflecting events before they've occurred. The stage is set for suspense, yet Ford (The Girl in the Glass) deflates it at every opportunity with his unresolved subplots. Instead of building to a thrilling climax, the story peters out and loose ends are either forgotten or tied up too neatly. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

In his latest novel, the author of The Girl in the Glass (2005) and The Empire of Ice Cream (2007), among other genre-bending tales, takes us back in time to the 1960s, when strange doings are afoot in a small suburban community. A schoolboy has vanished; a stranger has appeared; a prowler (possibly a pervert) is lurking about; and a librarian is losing her grip on reality. Keeping track of it all are several young chums, including the sixth-grade narrator; his older brother, Jim; and their sister, Mary, who may somehow be affecting what’s happening as she rearranges figures on the toy model of the community in her basement. Imagine a young-reader amateur-sleuth novel written by someone like Kafka, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of this one: surreal, unsettling, and more than a little weird. Ford has a rare gift for evoking mood with just a few well-chosen words and for creating living, breathing characters with only a few lines of dialogue. Give this one to readers who appreciate the blending of literary fiction, fantasy, and mystery --David Pitt

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Customer Reviews

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I read this book years ago simply because I loved the title and cover!
sally barry
The characters all have their flaws, but the family that the story revolves around is good at heart, and this comes through in their actions.
Jesse Buerk
I got the feeling that a lot of what's in these pages is biographical, and if it isn't, I'd be willing to bet Ford knew a family like this.
Mel Odom

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Mel Odom VINE VOICE on May 10, 2008
Format: Hardcover
THE SHADOW YEAR by Jeffrey Ford stands as one of the most striking pieces of fiction I've read so far this year. It's a coming-of-age novel and a statement on dysfunctional families that partially masks itself as a creepy mystery story. It starts out with a face in the window, a prowler in the neighborhood. The time is the 1960s and the location is Long Island, during a kinder, more gentler time when a family's secrets and failings were kept religiously guarded behind closed doors.

I was blown away by the atmosphere and eye for detail Ford packs into his writing. This was my first book by this author, and I was immediately impressed. He possesses the keen vision of Stephen King and doesn't flinch when it comes to exploring personal issues. I got the feeling that a lot of what's in these pages is biographical, and if it isn't, I'd be willing to bet Ford knew a family like this.

Almost. Ford presents a normal abnormal family, then leavens the whole mix with a hint of the supernatural. There's a ghost and the strange powers little sister Mary has, and the eerie presence of Mr. White, a diabolical villain.

But when Ford paints the picture of the family so realistically, most readers are going to get sucked right into his world and forgive the author all of his transgressions. I swallowed the supernatural bits without hesitation because the family were exactly like people I'd grown up with. The father is a workaholic holding down three jobs to get the family by, and so he barely spends any time with his wife or kids. The mother is an alcoholic, and though I would have desperately loved to know why she was, sometimes you just have to accept that there's no answer. The grandparents, Nan and Pop, are on hand to help out, but they're limited.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By George Eliot on April 12, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Jeffery Ford captures the thin lines between reality, fantasy and fear that separate childhood from the adult world. The narrator's belief that his sister had powers to predict others behavior, which she revealed by moving figures around Botchtown is exactly the type of connection that we fear and crave as children.
Ford also captures the unique perspective that children hold of adults in their lives, each description of an adult by the narrator, a boy, was right on the mark.
I read most of the book in one sitting. It drew me into its world and was was anxious to find out how it ended. The ending as other reviews noted was not equal to the rest of the book. But the book is more than worth it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Gallagher on April 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I've read all of Ford's novels and many of his short stories - including the short story that was the basis for The Shadow Year. This novel is his most interesting. It tells a story that isn't centered around what I think of as Ford's specialty, "The Perfect Fool" - malevolent practitioners of physionomy, eugenics or other quackery. Instead this novel puts us in the shoes of three children, through whom we view their adventure and world with a child's mix of clear eyes and whimsy. The novel manages to be sensitive and moving as well as hilarious.

I was also surprised at the memories the story evoked. In the relentless nostalgia of our society where there is no saying or memorable line that hasn't been used for a movie title, Ford's narrative brought back images I hadn't thought of in years.

After I finished, I wondered if I read the same book reviewed by Publisher's Weekly.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Ryan Van Baalen on March 28, 2009
Format: Paperback
While reading this book, I was reminded of reading "Something Wicked This Way Comes," by Ray Bradbury so many years ago. Some of the names, (Jim & Halloway) might've been what did it. Maybe it was the setting or the era. But the shadow year, in a weird way, seemed like it could be some sort of more modern version of the book I once read in highschool.

As I was reading it, the imagery and detail continued to draw me in. The end was, like another reviewer put it, a bit lacking, but not altogether bad. Sometimes that's the best part of being a kid; not really having all the answers, but instead being forced to piece together the truth with a few facts, but more often, a lot of imagination and mystery.

Recommended.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Richard Bowes on April 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ford's Long Island is one I knew when I lived there in the early 1960's. The novel shows it to me again - the towns sprung up in what had been potato fields, the communities made up entirely of newcomers. His description of a flea-bitten circus that's pitched its tents on a mud flat in Farmingdale is dead-on. I may have seen it on the same day the author did.

In those suburbs, the family was everything. The one depicted, with an alcoholic mother, a father working three jobs and a pair of grand-parents slowly fading out of the picture, is what would now be called dysfunctional. What Ford does brilliantly is to show how the kids, the narrator who is in sixth grade, his slightly older brother and somewhat younger sister, are thrown onto their own resources, forced into a tight bond, in the face of danger.

And dangers exist in what was supposed to be a paradise free of all the problems of the big cities. Early on in the book a pederast is busted, the main plot line concerns a killer who stalks the neighborhood. It's here that Ford depicts as well as I've seen it done, the tension and fear of a kid with dreadful knowledge he is unable to communicate to any adult.

The novel has a mystery and a ghost. It also has in abundance, the sights, the sounds, the smells and the feel of the early stages of the greatest social experiment of this nation in my lifetime.
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