Select one of the keywords
A Gathering of Shades    by David Stahler Jr. order for
Gathering of Shades
by David Stahler Jr.
Order:  USA  Can
HarperTempest, 2005 (2005)

Read an Excerpt

* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

It was a week before Thanksgiving when sixteen-year old Aidan's mom woke him with the tragic news that his dad had died in an automobile accident. Seven months later, Aidan and mom head for upper Vermont to live with Memere, his maternal grandmother. The long road trip takes them to Northeast Kingdom, and Harper Mountain, where Aidan's parents grew up on neighboring farms. Kingdom is remote country located near Quebec and New Hampshire. Aidan's resentful of the move, and of leaving friends in Massachusetts. He's bitter in his grief, and as each month passes, his father's face becomes less recognizable in his mind's eye.

Memere Boisvert takes a nightly walk into the orchard, where she fills a pitcher with brook water, and empties it into a basin by a chair. The added magical ingredient is a few drops of her blood, which brings out shades (ghosts). As each appears, they take a drink from the basin, form a semi-circle, and converse with Memere. Curious about grandma's nightly walk, Aidan follows and hides behind a tree, watching the ritual and the appearance of eight shades, local folks who have not yet left earth. He is called out from behind the tree to join the group. As the nightly encounters proceed, Aidan hopes to call forth his dad.

Paternal Uncle Donny hires Aidan to help on his nearby farm. As they build a fenced-in area for grazing heifers, Aidan spots a red-haired boy. Memere's album reveals a picture of a trio - Uncle Donny, Aidan's mother Patrice, and his dad Tim, a red-haired youngster. Aidan begins tracking the boy, who changes to a man. Though Aidan calls to his father, the ghost keeps his distance. Memere gave Aidan a book for summer reading, a copy of Homer's Odyssey. Stahler ingeniously parallels events in Homer's classic poem with Aidan's search - especially significant is 'Book XI - A Gathering of Shades'. Aidan was 'looking out over the upper fields in the evening when the land was smooth and rolling against the hills ... Then he thought of his father, the man who had hated everything to do with the farm, wandering alone in the woods.'

As a native Vermonter (as is the author), I appreciate David Stahler's penned portraits of New England scenery. The landscape, brooks, and fields of green are described in such a way that the reader yearns to climb to the summit of Harper Mountain and view the panorama, as did Aidan and his friend Angela - 'after stumbling onto the platform, neither spoke. They just turned in circles, taking in the 360-degree view ... the line of ridges, the village down in the hollow ... rows of mountains in the distance ... they watched the sun as it brooded, swollen and gold'.

Stahler's A Gathering of Shades is an endearing, contemplative tale of joy, love, loss and grief, and a teen's struggle to accept change, while growing in mind and spirit, helped by a mother's love and a grandmother's wisdom. The author poignantly depicts a period of time needed for mourning, letting go, treasuring memories, and the immense struggle with pain before the calm.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more Teens books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews