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The Saturday Night Ghost Club
Cover of The Saturday Night Ghost Club
The Saturday Night Ghost Club
A Novel
Borrow Borrow Borrow
An irresistible and bittersweet coming-of-age story in the vein of Stranger Things and Stand by Me about a group of misfit kids who spend an unforgettable summer investigating local ghost stories and urban legends

"A celebration of the secret lives of children, both their wonders and their horrors . . . Immensely enjoyable, piercingly clever, and satisfyingly soulful." -Jason Heller, NPR
Growing up in 1980s Niagara Falls - a seedy but magical, slightly haunted place - Jake Baker spends most of his time with his uncle Calvin, a kind but eccentric enthusiast of occult artifacts and conspiracy theories. The summer Jake turns twelve, he befriends a pair of siblings new to town, and so Calvin decides to initiate them all into the "Saturday Night Ghost Club." But as the summer goes on, what begins as a seemingly light-hearted project may ultimately uncover more than any of its members had imagined. With the alternating warmth and sadness of the best coming-of-age stories, The Saturday Night Ghost Club is a note-perfect novel that poignantly examines the haunting mutability of memory and storytelling, as well as the experiences that form the people we become, and establishes Craig Davidson as a remarkable literary talent.
An irresistible and bittersweet coming-of-age story in the vein of Stranger Things and Stand by Me about a group of misfit kids who spend an unforgettable summer investigating local ghost stories and urban legends

"A celebration of the secret lives of children, both their wonders and their horrors . . . Immensely enjoyable, piercingly clever, and satisfyingly soulful." -Jason Heller, NPR
Growing up in 1980s Niagara Falls - a seedy but magical, slightly haunted place - Jake Baker spends most of his time with his uncle Calvin, a kind but eccentric enthusiast of occult artifacts and conspiracy theories. The summer Jake turns twelve, he befriends a pair of siblings new to town, and so Calvin decides to initiate them all into the "Saturday Night Ghost Club." But as the summer goes on, what begins as a seemingly light-hearted project may ultimately uncover more than any of its members had imagined. With the alternating warmth and sadness of the best coming-of-age stories, The Saturday Night Ghost Club is a note-perfect novel that poignantly examines the haunting mutability of memory and storytelling, as well as the experiences that form the people we become, and establishes Craig Davidson as a remarkable literary talent.
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  • From the book

    1.

    MONSTERS

    Most people believe the human brain is solid. They imagine a loaf of bread soaked in gelatin: you can hack off quivering slices, same as you would with a Jell-O mold at a family picnic. But the truth is, the brain's texture is more like toothpaste. Brain matter will squeeze through a keyhole. In cases of severe cranial swelling, surgeons use a drill-I prefer the RA-II, a Korean model: 30,000 rpm, with silicone handgrips for comfort-to bore into the skull. If the swelling cannot be stopped, the living brain will project from the hole in an inverted funnel. This is called a "coning," and it marks an end.

    Most people also believe the brain is gray. Its cells are called gray matter, after all, and isn't that how the organ looks in horror flicks: a slaty walnut floating in a jar of formaldehyde in some mad scientist's lab? But a sheathed brain is bracingly pink. The tissue only turns gray once the cerebrospinal sac has been perforated, once the air hits it. When a brain cones, the tissue changes color; traceries of ash thread through that bubblegum pink as a million thoughts flicker and die.

    People think neurosurgeons cut into brains with a scalpel. Another myth. How can you carve toothpaste? An infant's brain matter is even less substantial than an adult's, like pancake batter. I operate with a sucker wand, a tool that is exactly as it sounds. As I investigate the runnels of a patient's brain, it grips me that something unforgivingly solid-my wand-is moving through something ephemeral, dreamlike: a patient's memories. Though I work carefully and with a keen knowledge of the cerebral topography, my wand remains a beast blundering through fields of budding shoots. If I trample something critical, the patient may awaken lacking a vital memory. That one where they gazed into the sky as a child wondering how a star might taste, settling on breathtaking wintergreen. The smell of their newborn daughter's scalp, or that haunting tingle on their lips following their first kiss.

    I navigate the storerooms of a patient's consciousness, passing memories in their golden vaults, my wand clumsily bayoneting-it often seems-the pink jelly that holds everything the patient is or will ever be. Hard as I try not to disturb the furniture, things happen. I am forced to accept these tragic outcomes for the same reason that the patients on my table must accept their own lot: we are only human, a condition of perpetual uncertainty and failure.

    The brain is the seat of memory, and memory is a tricky thing. At base level, memories are stories-and sometimes these stories we tell allow us to carry on. Sometimes stories are the best we can hope for. They help us to simply get by, while deeper levels of our consciousness slap bandages on wounds that hold the power to wreck us. So we tell ourselves that the people we love closed their eyes and slipped painlessly away from us. That our personal failures are the product of external forces rather than unfixable weaknesses. That we were too damn good for the rat-assed bastards who jilted us, anyway. Tell yourself these stories long enough and you will discover they have a magical way of becoming facts.

    But a secret can be hidden from everyone save its holder, and the brain is not only a storyteller, it is a truth-seeking organ. If the stories we tell are no more than an overlay, the equivalent of six feet of caliche covering a pool of toxic sludge, something's bound to bubble up, right? And the most awful truths will do so in the darkest hours of night, when we're most vulnerable.

    If you bury those secrets so deep that you forget they ever happened, okay, maybe you've beat the devil. But...

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    May 20, 2019
    Davidson’s well-crafted, whimsical coming-of-age tale (after Cataract City) follows a fateful summer in the ’80s. Twelve-year-old Jake Baker navigates between being bullied and exploring mysticism in his Niagara Falls hometown. The sleepy town is stagnant aside from tourists, and impressionable Jake doesn’t have many prospects for the summer aside from visiting the occult shop owned by his Uncle Calvin, who believes in the spirit world. Calvin encourages friendship between his nephew and new residents Billy Yellowbird and his sister, Dove, and invites them to a ghost hunting club. Jake is smitten by Dove, who, at 14, flits in and out of the club, while Jake and Billy raptly follow Calvin and his friend, Lexington, a devotee to Betamax, on weekend exploits. The meetings kick off with Calvin telling the tragic story behind each of the ghostly places they visit before they investigate the areas. Their group visits “The Screaming Tunnel,” a car accident site, the charred remains of a house, and a graveyard. Over the course of the summer, the hidden connection behind the locations reveals itself to Jake. Davidson creates a quirky landscape and colorful characters, resulting in a novel that will entertain readers while providing a nice dose of nostalgia. Agent: Kirby Kim, Janklow & Nesbit Associates.

  • Kirkus

    June 1, 2019
    A coming-of-age narrative about ghosts, friendship, and family secrets. Jake Baker is a neurosurgeon who takes us back to the summer when he was 12 years old and growing up amid the tackiness of Niagara Falls, a landscape desperately in need of redemption. Although Jake is something of a loner, he hits it off with two kids new to the neighborhood, Billy and Dove Yellowbird. While Billy is the same age as Jake, Dove is two years older, and Jake is immediately smitten by her strength and self-confidence. There to help them all in their transition out of childhood is Jake's eccentric Uncle Cal, like Jake, an "odd duck" who is almost like a child himself. Cal owns a shop called the Occultorium and has over time "cultivated a network of mystics and paranoiacs and those who saw the world at a different skew." Through motivations mysterious even to himself, Cal proposes that they form a Saturday Night Ghost Club to explore arcane places around their neighborhood, including a Screaming Tunnel ("Cataract City's most famous haunted spot"), a car that has been submerged for years in the bend of a river, and the remains of a house that had been ravaged by fire. As he moves through these adventures, Jake transitions from being terrified to accommodating himself to both the strangeness of his uncle and the strangeness of the world. Through his parents, Jake eventually learns how Cal is connected to each of the venues he takes the children to even though Cal himself doesn't understand the depth of these connections. As a result of these experiences during this memorable summer when he's on the cusp of adolescence, Jake's understanding and compassion are enlarged: tout comprendre c'est tout pardonner. Through the intensity of his characters' experiences, Davidson reconnects us to our own memories of growing up.

    COPYRIGHT(2019) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • School Library Journal

    June 28, 2019

    Gr 10 Up-An adult recounts the summer of his 12th year in 1980s Niagara Falls, Canada. Back then, Jake befriended the new kids in town, Billy and Dove Yellowbird, and-with his erratic, conspiracy-theory-and-urban-legend-believing Uncle C-embarks on a series of adolescent hijinx including hunting ghosts and contacting the dead. However, not all of the crew's capers deal with the supernatural, evidenced when they dig up Jake's father's old Playboy magazines or set off fireworks into a would-be predator's face in a junkyard. In addition to chronicling history, present-day adult Jake often takes the first-person narration out of the past, giving play-by-plays of his work as a brain surgeon or injecting after-the-fact knowledge and insight. This adds a level of depth and nuance that an older audience may appreciate, but will likely be lost on most middle grade or teen readers. Riddled with swears and lewd phrases (i.e., "getting laid"), outdated pop culture references ("Danger, Will Robinson!"), and numerous salacious situations, it is clear the point of view is that of a grown adult reflecting on his past rather than a child experiencing it, making this an uncertain fit for many youth libraries and classrooms. VERDICT Though eloquent, this title would appeal more to an adult nostalgic for childhood than to a child reader. A pass for most youth and teen collections.-Brittany Drehobl, Morton Grove Public Library, IL

    Copyright 2019 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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