Today’s team review comes from Barb, she blogs at http://barbtaub.com/
Barb has been reading Rarity From the Hollow by Robert Eggleton
My review: 3 out of 5 stars for Rarity From the Hollow
Magic Realism: a literary genre or style that incorporates fantastic or mythical elements into otherwise realistic fiction. (Miriam Webster)
Set in Appalachia, Rarity From the Hollow deals with one of the most painful topics possible—child abuse. We meet two little girls, and hear them try to live in a world that includes violence, sexual assault, incest, drug and substance abuse, mental illness, and murder. When little Lacy Dawn turns to inanimate objects such as the trees around her for emotional support and guidance, it’s a compelling and believable image.
But it’s also the story of magical realism in which the the squalor of Lacy’s life is systematically repaired by a bemused alien. The alien, DotCom, hails from a giant shopping mall planet called Shptiludrp that involves a complicated rewards system for those who do just what the planet’s name suggests and “Shop Till You Drop”.
And that’s the problem. For me, the two very different stories never successfully match up. Since the author was a children’s psychotherapist with a particular focus on victims of child abuse, I accept that those aspects of the story are accurate reflections of past incidents and patients. However, when it comes to integrating the stories, there is just too big a disconnect for me. Child abuse isn’t an ideal topic for humor, although Roald Dahl does make the most of its possibilities. By the same token, the light-hearted spoof of our modern materialistic world never fits comfortably against the horrors of abused little girls.
The characters in the novel do develop and grow from their shallow, often violent and/or mentally ill beginnings. Unfortunately, because this occurs as a result of magic alien technology, it’s not clear what their changes mean in the long run. On the one hand, the writing itself takes risks that support the overall storyline, such as the decision to have a variety of characters’ internal thoughts presented as simple text following their verbal statements. But I found the pace of the story uneven, the character-development driven by alien’s magic “cure” somewhat unsatisfying, and the plot deeply divided between a description of Lacy’s abusive and dangerous world and the whimsical, vaguely Ayn Rand-meets-Willie Wonka world of her alien mentor.
I would give Rarity From the Hollow three stars. Author Robert Eggleton has created a believable and compelling world where a robot risks capture in order to rescue the one little girl destined to save the universe. I just wish he had spent more time tying the two stories—child abuse victim and destined Chosen One—together better.