What is this about?: It’s a collection of stories about Rose, the Phantom Prom Date ghost, who is an urban legend that everyone knows. But this is about the girl, stuck as a ghost as a teenager but with the life (or rather death) experience of someone much older. We learn how she came to be this ghost – she died obviously, but thee’s so much more to the story that that.
What else is this about?: It’s about Rose’s fear of the man who killed her, I think, and of what lies beyond being a ghost in this world.
Rose Marshall died in 1952 in Buckley Township, Michigan, run off the road by a man named Bobby Cross—a man who had sold his soul to live forever, and intended to use her death to pay the price of his immortality. Trouble was, he didn’t ask Rose what she thought of the idea.
It’s been more than sixty years since that night, and she’s still sixteen, and she’s still running.
They have names for her all over the country: the Girl in the Diner. The Phantom Prom Date. The Girl in the Green Silk Gown. Mostly she just goes by “Rose,” a hitchhiking ghost girl with her thumb out and her eyes fixed on the horizon, trying to outrace a man who never sleeps, never stops, and never gives up on the idea of claiming what’s his. She’s the angel of the overpass, she’s the darling of the truck stops, and she’s going to figure out a way to win her freedom. After all, it’s not like it can kill her.
You can’t kill what’s already dead.
I did it, I finally read a ghost story! Considering how much of wuss I am when it comes to this genre, I enjoyed typing this sentence out.
Rose is 16 years old forever, but when she opens her mouth a snarky, intelligent and astute woman comes out.
Sparrow Hill Road is in essence a collection of ghost stories, in which we follow our ghost on the night she died, and as she learns about her world around her. This is the second book technically from Seanan McGuire that I’ve read, and like the Incryptid series (read 2 out of this series), this is filled with creative worldbuilding and more snark than you would imagine.
Rose is our anchor, through this world and the different stories, which actually makes it a lot easier to get into. When I first started reading this, the time jumps were a bit hard to completely get into, but I realised Rose was incredibly likeable and empathetic – even when she’s taking revenge on her great-niece who tries to kill her or when she’s mourning the loss of someone she didn’t help on the (Ghost) Road.
Which brings me to what Rose does: this isn’t just her, pardon the bad joke, floating around doing ghostly things. In McGuire’s world there are different types of ghosts, who do different things and Rose’s lot in death is to help those who die on the roads across to their afterlife, wherever it may be.
So what else does Rose do?
She has a nemesis, so there’s actually a deeper purpose to this book than I may have led you to believe above: Bobby Cross made a deal with the Crossroads, and since that point in time young people – like Rose – have been paying for his deal. Only problem is, she got away so Cross is eternally after her. Cross is the kind of evil that makes you feel slimy, no matter how good he is supposed to look, and he wants Rose’s soul to power his car, which in turn keeps him on the road, forever driving – and a little more besides.
Sparrow Hill Road turned out to be so much more fun than I thought it would be. It’s a testament to some glorious worldbuilding and characterisation – and I am utterly completely still in awe of the well of creativity that is Seanan McGuire.