Review | Saturday Night Ghost Club by Craig Davidson

Saturday Night Ghost Club is by Canadian author Craig Davidson. It was first published in August 2018. It is a coming of age, literary fiction novel.

When neurosurgeon Jake Baker operates, he knows he’s handling more than a patient’s delicate brain tissue–he’s altering the seat of consciousness, the golden vault of memory. And memory, Jake knows well, can be a tricky, quicksilver thing.
     When growing up in 1980s Niagara Falls, a.k.a. Cataract City–a seedy but magical, slightly haunted place–one of Jake’s closest confidantes was his uncle Calvin, a sweet but eccentric misfit enamored of occult artefacts and outlandish conspiracy theories. The summer Jake turned twelve, Calvin invited him to join the “Saturday Night Ghost Club”–a seemingly light-hearted project to investigate some of Cataract City’s more macabre urban myths. Over the course of that life-altering summer, Jake not only met his lifelong best friend and began to imagine his own future, he came to realize that his uncle’s preoccupation with chilling legends sprang from something so painful, and buried so deep, that Calvin himself was unaware of the source. 
– Goodreads Summary

This book was chosen as my library’s One Book campaign for the 2019-2020 season. All staff are encouraged to read each book that is selected for the campaign. That way, we can engage in informal book conversations and/or more formal book discussions with patrons who take part in the initiative by reading the book with us. I am only familiar with one other book by Craig Davidson, which is his memoir Precious Cargo: My Year of Driving the Kids on School Bus 3077 because it has been on my TBR list since it’s release. I likely would not have picked up this novel if weren’t for the One Book campaign, because the ghost club aspect would have turned me away (I’m not one for ghost stories). Even though I enjoy coming of age novels, that might not have been enough to convince me to pick it up.

But I am glad that I did!

This was an enjoyable story and there certainly is some literary merit to be given to Davidson’s writing. The story is concise, fitting into less than 250 pages. I felt like there could have been more depth and insight into the characters. Jake was intriguing, but I would have liked some more background on his parents and also his friend Dove. I felt like there was a lot of details about these characters’ lives that were left out. However, this book was also plot-driven and the author accomplished a fully developed and resolved story in that length of a book. So his word choice and use of language were on point here.

I am familiar with the Niagara area, having lived there for the better part of 5 years while attending Brock University. I still visit the area regularly, having friends and family who have since resided there. So it was cool to hear about places, intersections, and areas that I could picture in my mind. Without fact-checking, I do believe that the Screaming Tunnel is a ‘real’ place, as I remember hearing local legends about it while at school. However, I never visited it since I haven’t generally had an appeal for ghosts in the past. I enjoyed the 80’s nostalgia references in this book a lot! It also touched on mental health both uniquely and tragically. Plus, it has a very capturing twist ending, which probably is what boosted my rating for the book a bit higher overall.

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5). This book is enjoyable and it’s a quick read. I feel like it was too short for my general tastes though, and could have used more length and detail in the character development and description. 

I’d Recommend This Book If:

  • you live in the city of London, ON and want to take part in the One Book One London campaign with London Public Library this year!
  • you enjoy literary fiction and Canadian authors
  • you are familiar with Niagara Falls, whether you currently reside there or have resided there or just have an interest in the area
  • you enjoy coming of age stories 
  • you can appreciate some 80’s nostalgia in this day and age. 

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