The Shadow Year by Jeffrey Ford has a plot in which three kids (sister and two brothers) are caught up in fear when one summer a prowler comes to their town.

But the real story here isn’t about the prowler, or even about the replica of their town they’ve made in their basement and how the sister can “tell” where real people will be by putting their figurines in their replica of Botch Town.

What keeps you reading this book is the portrait of people seen, unflaggingly, through the eyes of the protagonist, a young boy. You see how the mother drinks herself to sleep each night, and how they put a book on her lap so that she’ll think she read herself to sleep. You see how the death of a friend’s mother looks through a boy’s eyes, and how a tired teacher can be noble and pathetic at the same time.

I really enjoyed the language of this book. The descriptions were beautiful and eerie at the same time. “The days sank deeper into autumn, rotten to their cores with twilight.”

Recommended. Even for non-speculative fiction readers, as the speculative element was slight.