Review: The Saturday Night Ghost Club by Craig Davidson

The Saturday Night Ghost Club by Craig Davidson
Penguin Books (July 9, 2019)
224 pages; $8.99 paperback; $11.99 e-book
Reviewed by Kevin Lucia

The Saturday Night Ghost Club, by Craig Davidson, isn’t exactly a ghost story. Nor does it feature any overtly supernatural events. However, it is, at heart, about the essence of hauntings. About the things which haunt us, even if they’re buried so deeply, we don’t even remember them.

Narrator Jake Baker relates to us the summer he turns twelve, during which he becomes a charter member of the Saturday Night Ghost Club, founded by his kindly eccentric uncle, Calvin. Calvin is a slightly older than middle-aged man obsessed with the supernatural and the occult. He runs an odd little shop called the Occultorium, specializing in the weird, strange, and bizarre. He feeds on conspiracy theories like a kid feeds on cotton candy at the summer fair. 

He is, for the most part, harmless. An eccentric man who loves to thrill children with stories of the bizarre and the supernatural. Even so, throughout the story, Jake notices that his parents—while not leery of Uncle Calvin—seem mildly guarded about his past, and his endeavors. This is what leads him to conceal the Ghost Club from his parents, because of the instinctual understanding that, for some reason, they might not approve.

What is the Ghost Club? Quite simply, Uncle Calvin believes their small town of Cataract City (in Niagara Falls) is a highly haunted place. He sets out to take Jake and two newcomers to town—Billy Yellowbird, and his older, beautiful, strange and wild sister, Dove—on expeditions exploring these haunted places. 

However, this slightly creepy romp through a small town’s urban legends eventually turns into something more. As the summer wears on, Jake takes note of a growing strangeness in his Uncle Calvin, who is prone to terrible nightmares and drawing disturbing pictures in his sleep. As their tour wears on, Uncle Calvin seems distracted, weighed down by more than just a small sleepy town’s urban legends. What is the true meaning of these “haunted” places? And what is the true purpose of the Ghost Club?

The Saturday Night Ghost Club is a  moving tale about loss, haunting, and regret. It’s a beautiful coming of age story which, in many ways, is a bit like The Body by Stephen King, though more lighthearted and wistful. The ending is profoundly touching and sad, but also hopeful. It is, at the same time, a love letter to the weird and the strange. Highly recommended for your summer reading.

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