A New York Times Editors’ Choice * A Paris Review Staff Pick * An Indie Next Pick
“Hypnotic and glowing.” — New York Times Book Review
“An intriguing mystery with clues, suspense, enigmas galore, and an exhilarating, witty, poignant paean to the unexplainable, the unsolvable, the irreducibly mysterious.”
— Boston Globe
Ruth and Nat are seventeen. They are orphans. And they may be able to talk to the dead. Enter Mr. Bell, a con man with his own mystical interests. Together they embark on an unexpected journey that connects meteor sites, utopian communities, lost mothers, and a scar that maps its way across Ruth’s face.
Decades later and after years of absence, Ruth visits her niece, Cora. But while Ruth used to speak to the dead, she now won’t speak at all. She leads Cora on a mysterious mission that involves crossing the entire state of New York on foot. Where is she taking them? And who—or what—is hidden in the woods at the end of the road?
“An escapist adventure, a gothic page-turner that is also so finely crafted that you’ll feel enriched as well as transported for having read it.” — Esquire
“An American gothic fever dream.” — Chicago Tribune
“Gripping.” — The New Yorker
Hunt's ethereal third novel (after Orange Prize finalist The Invention of Everything Else) is a nod to the mid-19th-century legend of the Fox sisters, mediums who conjured up a devilish spirit they called Mr. Splitfoot in order to separate the gullible from their money. The book deftly straddles the slippery line between fantasy and reality in a story that's both gripping and wonderfully mystifying. Hailing from the Love of Christ! Foster Home, Farm, and Mission a halfway house filled with damaged souls and run by a conniving religious kook Ruth and Nat occupy their turbulent adolescent years pretending they can talk to dead people. When they reach 18, the two latch on to a mysterious benefactor who convinces them to use their skill for cash. Decades later, a newly pregnant Cora Ruth's niece awakens to find the long-absent Ruth standing by her bedside and is whisked off on a wild goose chase across New York. Where they're going and why, the mute Ruth won't say. Hunt's use of a split narrative to measuredly disclose snippets of Ruth's past and Cora's present in alternating, interconnected chapters builds suspense while keeping readers guessing about what crazy turn might happen next. Hints of what's in store for readers include a cult of Etherists, a noseless man, a pile of lost money, and a scar-like pattern of meteorite landings. This spellbinder is storytelling at its best.
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