Friday, August 11, 2017

Book Review: Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt

I love Southern Gothics. When I think of traditional Gothic novels, I think of Victorian novels such as 'Wuthering Heights', 'Great Expectations' or 'Dracula.' All of these take place in dreary Victorian England, a place full of fog, rain and soot. The atmosphere of the environment lends well to that dread of a Gothic narrative. But the South is a place of sunshine. I wouldn't imagine a place full of sunshine being such perfect settings for macabre stories. But the Southern Gothic stores I've read are some of he most delightfully unsettling and eerie works out there.

I first got interested in the genre after reading Flannery O'Connors short stories in 'Everything that Rises Must Converge.' O' Connor is a genius of creating completely unsettling works of fiction taking place in the South. I started reading 'Everything that Rises Must Converge' not knowing much about O'Connor. It was when I got to the story 'A View of the Woods' that I was jolted into recognition of what O'Connor was all about.

I've read other Southern Gothics since O'connor that have gripped my imagination and am eager to read more. When I saw Mr. Splitfoot at the library, it was described in one of the blurbs on the cover as a Southern Gothic, so this is why I decided to read it.

Mr. Splitfoot immediately grabbed my attention and transported me to the world of the book. The story encompasses many aspects of the Southern Gothic genre: decay in the south, poverty, absurd people and situations and an atmosphere of strangeness.

The story follows Ruth. Ruth grows up in a foster home, almost a part of a collection by the foster homes 'father' who only fosters those with something different about them. Ruth has a scar that goes down her entire face. The foster home is less of a home, and more of a religious cult. Ruth stays sane in this sad setting because of her strong friendship with her foster brother Nat. When Nat and Ruth are 17, they befriend a huckster and the three start a racket where Nat and Ruth speak to the dead. This leads them on a whirl wind journey where they encounter unsavory foes and learn sad truths.

The story takes place in two different time periods, the second being well after Ruth is a teenager, and follows the story of her grown niece who is recently pregnant. Ruth appears in her niece Cora's life and beckons her to accompany her on a long and meandering journey by foot. The end of the journey leads to a conclusion that Cora could never have expected!

This book was very engaging and unique. There were elements of mystery and the supernatural layered in this sad and delightful story. The characters felt rich and alive.

One of the main themes running through the book was that of outsiders. There were outsiders that tried to find ways to an inside by joining or creating cults, and by believing in the unbelievable to feel a little less alone. There were outsiders who reveled in their outsidedness by fleeing the burdens of the expected world, and by clinging to the comfort of their fellow outsider. One of the most interesting characters was Cora who was so willing to embrace her ousiderness, which in turn brought her closer to other people.

I definitely recommend this book. I can't wait to read more by Samantha Hunt!


WordsPoeticallyWorth said...

Thanks for the review. Sounds like a good read. Love love, Andrew. Bye.

Amber said...

Thanks for the comment! It was definitely a good read!