"A Sudden Light" by Garth Stein is a modern gothic haunted house story set in 1990s Pacific Northwest. The protagonist is a 14 year old boy, Trevor Riddell, who has been taken by his father to the ancestral Riddell mansion, which sits in a large swath of forested land. There Trevor becomes acquainted with his father's family, both living and dead.
Riddell patriarch Elijah was a timber baron, who made his fortune by cutting down huge amounts of trees and imposing poor work conditions on his employees. Elijah had two sons. Benjamin was gay and had a lover, whom Elijah wanted to hide from society; ultimately this resulted in tragedy. The other son squandered what fortune Elijah left behind. By the 1990s, only the crumbling house and land remain, along with two bitter residents: Grandpa Samuel who grieves over his long-dead dancer wife, and Aunt Serena who resents having to care for her aging father.
Trevor's father, Jones, has lost his business and his home, and is about to lose his wife. He hopes that by convincing his father Samuel to sell the now-crumbling house and land to real estate developers, the fresh infusion of cash will win back Jones' wife. Serena has been stuck in the mansion her whole life and wants to travel the world. But the old man doesn't want to sell ... because late at night, he hears someone dancing in the ballroom.
Trevor desperately wants his parents to reconcile, but he soon discovers that someone or something is intent on keeping the land and trees preserved. The boy is deeply torn between wanting to get his parents back together and fulfilling a promise to the past. As he uncovers more of the history of his family with the help of a benevolent presence, he finds that the true enemy of his happiness is among the living.
With apparitions, secret passages, hidden journals, and flashbacks to secrets of the past, this is a fun read. Expect plenty of tree-climbing, and keep tissues handy for the last few chapters.
A Sudden Light / Garth Stein PS 3569.T3655 S83 2014