Published in 2012/2016
Publisher: Dog Horn Publishing
This book was sent to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.
Author proceeds have been donated to a child abuse prevention program operated by Children’s Home Society of West Virginia
Rarity from the Hollow is a science fiction/fantasy book about Lacy Dawn - a twelve year old girl who is very smart and very advanced for her age. She never misses one day of school and is respected by her classmates. But her family life is a tragedy. Her father suffers from PTSD and takes out his frustrations on Lacy Dawn and her mother. Her mother is a passive mess, who can't stand up for herself, let alone her for own daughter. And Lacy Dawn's best friend was murdered by her own father who was a sexual predator.
The only place where Lacy Dawn feels safe is her magical forest inhabited by talking trees, and the ghost of her best friend. She spends hours talking to the trees, trying to figure out the simplest tasks in life, like sneaking into the house without her drunk father catching her and beating her. And she wants nothing more in life than to fix her family. She wants new teeth for her mother, and for her father to be healthy and happy so he won't hurt her and her mother anymore.
Lacy Dawn may be in luck, though, because she has someone who can help her heal her family. His name is DotCom and he is an alien android who lives in his spaceship in the magical forest. His mission here on Earth is to train and educate Lacy Dawn so that she can save the Universe. It turns out that Lacy Dawn isn't an ordinary girl, but a result of thousands of years of planning and engineering by a civilisation more advanced than ours. And they need Lacy Dawn's help, because the Universe is in big trouble. But first she needs DotCom's help to save her family from misery and abuse. Can they save both Lacy Dawn's family and the Universe in time?
The author describes this book as "children's story for adults." It's written from the point of view of a young girl, but it deals with adult issues, such as sex, abuse, drugs, mental illness and consumerism.
The first thing you need to know about this book is that it's insane. And by insane, I mean it's completely bat crap crazy. I haven't read anything like it. It's like The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy set in South Park.
Everything about this book is crazy and unconventional, from the premise, all the way down to the writing. You go in, expecting a very tragic and disturbing drama about poverty, mental illness and domestic violence, and this is what the story is about for the first third or so of the book. But then it changes direction, and you find yourself in a fantastical world filled with magical fixes, and where everything is possible. Deep space travel, a planet that is a giant shopping mall, talking dogs and robots discovering their sexuality.
While reading this book, I often found myself wondering: is this real? Are these things actually happening in the book, or have years of abuse and neglect finally driven the girl into child psychosis and all of this is in her head?
Robert Eggleton is a former mental health psychotherapist, who worked with victims of child abuse. Keeping that in mind, it's not at all surprising that he portrays Lacy Dawn's family and the other families in the Hollow with brutal realism. This is perhaps the best part of the book. He offers a unique insight into the life and lifestyle of families who deal with depression, poverty and domestic violence. The most baffling thing is that Lacy Dawn doesn't want to be rescued from her family by the child services. In fact, this is what she dreads the most. She loves both her parents and she wants to fix them.
Here, Eggleton has the kind of knowledge and insight that only years of practice in the field can give you.
He tells the story of a young girl in a terrible predicament, who also has to go to school, and on top of it all, is starting to discover her sexuality. Now that's delicate business when your mother is masturbating loudly in the bathroom, and your best friend was sexually molested by her father. Where can she go for positive and healthy representation of sex?
As insane this book is, it's also very smart. For instance, it's smart satire on the consumer culture. Just think: the administrative centre of the Universe is a mall, and the status of your home planet depends on how much stuff you buy.
|Black Friday or galactic warfare?|
Like I mentioned earlier, this book makes quite a leap between disturbing realism to fantastical absurdity. And for me this must be the most confusing part. The narrative is unbalanced. It starts off in one way and then this transition from realistic to absolutely insane happens so fast, that at some point you feel like you're reading two different books.
I feel like we never get to deal with issues that Eggleton introduces early on in the book properly. I can't give any examples, because of the spoilers, but halfway through the book some of the most burning questions are just dropped and they are never answered. I would have liked to get those questions answered, and have some closure.
Also, aside from Lacy Dawn, I don't find any of the characters particularly interesting. They're all just as insane as the story they're in, but there isn't any real depth to them. They have the potential, but once the plot takes off into outer space - literally - there isn't enough time to slow down and take a good look at the characters and see how they have changed and developed.
Rarity from the Hollow is not for the squeamish. If you're easily offended by things like masturbation and smoking pot in front of the children, you may be put off by certain parts of this book. There are elements in this book that are difficult to read about, and that are just disturbing. Unfortunately, what makes them so disturbing is that they're so realistic. Things that Eggleton talks about in this book happen every day, and we can't shy away from reality.
Reading this book was quite an experience. I haven't read anything that is so confusing, amusing and tragic at the same time. If you like entertaining science fiction that also makes you think about real life issues, I can easily recommend this book.
My rating: 3 stars