“Maybe it’s just that vibe any decent bookstore or library has. A kind of magic. Perhaps it’s the clocks that make time more visceral, like something you can feel on your skin or get tangled in your hair.” That description of entering the Books ‘N’ Time Bookstore in the thriving little community of Silverton, Oregon, made me sit up and take notice. What kind of book is this? With its subtitle, I had expected some kind of horror story, perhaps even ghosts? But Midnight in Silverton is so much more than that. Yes, there are “ghosts” of a kind, and there is a serial killer on the loose, but this is a literary work with in-depth character development, brilliant turns of phrase, profound meditations on loss and regret and the poor choices all of us make. The introspection is unnerving at times, exploring a mind pushed to the breaking point. Is it PTSD? Schizophrenia?
Like a Mayberry gone off the rails, the “quaint” Silverton slowly reveals its underbelly—biker gangs, drug-trafficking, domestic abuse—as the narrator returns to his parents’ home to try to recover after losing his job, his finances, and a string of broken relationships. But as Thomas Wolfe famously wrote, “You can’t go home again.” The demons and nightmares persist. Our narrator’s flaws are as firmly attached to him as his shadow. In fact, the novel may be read as an exploration of what Carl Jung called the shadow—the unknown dark side of the human personality nestled in the unconscious. That shadow is a low bass note, increasing in volume and menace as the story unfolds.
Despite the darkness, there is humor here as well, the kind of humor that is only possible in the context of enduring family bonds, and the love and support of life-long friendships. Midnight in Silverton is a kind of love letter to a small town, an homage to a real Oregon community that may make you want to pay a visit. It’s a novel not to be hurried but to be savored, as you might a fine meal enhanced by a perfect Pinot Noir.