Sparrow Hill Road and The Girl in the Green Silk Gown, by Seanan McGuire
Let's see if I remember how to do this.
I didn't sign up for the R.I.P. reading event this year, but these books would have been perfect for it. They are the stories of Rose Marshall, who died in a car accident on the night of her prom, on Sparrow Hill Road, in Buckley Township, Michigan, back in 1952. Over the decades that followed, Rose became a famous ghost, The Girl in the Green Silk Gown, The Girl in the Diner. Always looking like the teenager she was when she died, she is a "hitcher," a ghost looking for rides. And sometimes the people who give her rides end up dying on the road too.
Sparrow Hill Road introduces Rose and her world of the twilight, including the different types of ghosts who share it with her, and the humans who enter into it. The author calls it "a 'fix-up,' a collection of short stories strung together by a thin narrative thread." It didn't feel thin to me. I loved exploring Rose's world, learning her story, meeting the friends she has made on the road - and the enemies - and finding out why she is compelled to hitch those rides. I've heard those kind of stories before, told around a campfire or whispered in the dark. Rose's story felt so familiar, it was hard sometimes to remember that she never really lived and died.
The Girl in the Green Silk Gown is a novel, building off the stories in the first book. It is about an attempt to capture Rose, to finish off something that began back in 1952, when she was driven off the road to her death. It takes Rose out of her place in the twilight, leaving her lost and alone - and alive again. She must make her way back to death, but it's not as simple as contriving an accident. It is a bigger, more complicated story, with a twist at the end that I never saw coming. Though the ending is neat, it doesn't feel like the end of Rose's story. I hope there may be more to come.
I discovered Seanan McGuire through Twitter, but I hadn't read any of her books before I found The Girl in the Green Silk Gown on the library's new book shelves. Once I realized Sparrow Hill Road came first, I of course had to read it first. I'm looking forward to exploring her other series. Tor has a handy "where to start" page here.