Books, Reading, Review
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Book Review (sort of) – ‘Mr Splitfoot’

MrSplitfootCoverTitle: Mr  Splitfoot
Author: Samantha Hunt
Genre: Fiction (literary/a little bit of scary stuff)
Release Date: 2016
Rating: ★★★★★

“Nat and Ruth are young orphans, living in a crowded foster home run by an eccentric religious fanatic. When a traveling con-man comes knocking, they see their chance to escape and join him on the road, proclaiming they can channel the dead – for a price, of course.
Decades later, in a different time and place, Cora is too clever for her office job, too scared of her abysmal lover to cope with her unplanned pregnancy, and she too is looking for a way out. So when her mute Aunt Ruth pays her an unexpected visit, apparently on a mysterious mission, she decides to join her.
Together the two women set out on foot, on a strange and unforgettable odyssey across the state of New York. Where is Ruth taking them? Where has she been? And who – or what – has she hidden in the woods at the end of the road?”
(Little, Brown)

I LOVED THIS BOOK SO MUCH. A couple of other bloggers had posted positive reviews about it so I was expecting to like it as well, but you know what happens when you have high expectations – they generally aren’t met. This wasn’t one of those times. It was creepy, original, and I had no idea what was going to happen from one page to the next. It also has a little bit to say about a lot of things, some of which I’ve shared my thoughts on below. I can’t share my thoughts on everything – I’d be here forever as there are so many things to discuss with this book; it has more layers than an onion. The story/stories aren’t told linearly and to reflect that, I can’t write a linear flowy review. So here’s a few things and my thoughts on them. I’ll try to be succinct but no promises.

Firstly, there’s a bunch of weird stuff. There’s talking to the dead, loads of meteorites, cults and more. Snorting bleach and a guy without a nose. And maybe the Devil (is that who Mr Splitfoot is?). All of that right there should be enough to make you pick up this book (please feel free to stop reading this now and go grab a copy from wherever). But underneath all the weird stuff, there’s some less weird things, which makes me think that the weirdness is used to carry some less weird things.

The same with the characters. You get to know them, sure, and they were super interesting and also weird, but to me it was more like they were there to communicate something more beyond what was in black and white on the page. I don’t know, I’m probably looking into it too much to be honest. Anyway.  Oh and the end. Not of this post (unluckily for you), but the end of the book – it was kind of breathtaking and unexpected and explained so much, but also raised more questions that can only be answered with another reading (which is not a bad thing AT ALL).

Samantha Hunt has captured real life in the current era perfectly:

“For people my age, including me, if we don’t post it, it never happened. People’s children will disappear if every ounce of magnificence is not made public and circulated widely. Lord’s not like that. He kisses me without considering if we’d look better under a Lo-Fi or Kelvin filter.” (p.30)

(If I didn’t write this post, did I really read the book?) I loved how the further Cora gets on her journey with Ruth, the less pervasive technology becomes – it was like going back in time. Which really fits in with the non-linear aspect of the novel, as it begins with Ruth and Nat at 17 living in the foster home (with little technology), then moves fourteen years into the future with Cora at 25, whose life is saturated with technology, then back again.

Family, and how titles don’t really mean much. The man who runs the foster home, Love of Christ! (that’s its name – exclamation mark and everything) (I challenge you to read Love of Christ! without yelling it in your head) is named the Father and his wife is the Mother. They are father and mother in title only, for they are anything but parents to the children in their care. And, unlike what you might be thinking (because it’s what I was thinking based on the blurb), Nat isn’t a female, but when he and Ruth are thrown together at five years old, Ruth calls him her sister and that’s what they stick with. But out in the big wide world, they call each other brother and sister because that’s the norm and it’s what people will accept. Basically, titles are nothing more than labels to make it easier to arrange family units – and life – and as we all know, sometimes things can be mislabeled (you can ponder about this more deeply at your whim – I need to stop writing about this now because I could actually write a whole essay about it).

And what about motherhood and pregnancy? Again, another thing I knew – a pregnant woman’s body apparently belongs to everyone. Not that I’ve experienced it, but I’ve seen it and I’ve been one of those awful people whose hand was magnetically drawn to the stomach of a pregnant lady (friends only, never strangers – that would be TOO weird). But Hunt takes this a step further in terms of body ownership/who’s allowed to do what with the body of a pregnant woman. I won’t go into too many details because spoilers, but let’s just say that it asks questions about who makes the decisions with an unplanned and sometimes unwanted pregnancy.

Now to wrap this post up, here’s my absolute favourite quote:

“I’m old-fashioned. I read books.” She swoops her lopsided hair from her face. “I can’t help myself. I love books. Even though I get enraged at the tyranny of text.”
“What’s that?”
“You know. Left to right. Punctuation. Page 1, page 2, page 3. Text has a lot of rules. Kind of like getting born, living your life, dying. You know. Text has only one direction. Frustrates me.” (p.222)

The “tyranny of text”, you guys. I feel like I should have been a rebel and punctuated that quote incorrectly or something (but I didn’t, promise).

If you’ve read this book, please let’s discuss it!

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21 Comments

  1. Pingback: My Top 10 New Releases of 2016 | Bits & Books

    • It’s definitely at the top of my list of books to recommend to people. I really want to reread it though to see how different it reads knowing the ending.

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  2. Pingback: The round up // April 2016 | Bits & Books

  3. AHHHHH I LOVE THIS REVIEW AND I LOVE YOU. I think what people don’t get about this book before reading it is how startling and emotionally beautiful it is by the end. Like it all comes together so nicely, and it’s really not all about the weird. The weird just helps facilitate a story that’s very very real. I feel like your post kind of gets at that, so I hope it gets more people to read it if they’re unsure about it!!

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    • That’s exactly what I was trying to say! Like, if you look past all the weirdness there’s some really important stuff going on. I’m really glad you guys encouraged me to read it – it’s one of my favourite books from this year for sure!

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  4. I was soooo crushed not to love this book! The blogosphere seems to truly adore it, and I couldn’t get into it at all. I’m looking back on it and wondering if I maybe shouldn’t have read the end? Like I think maybe reading the end made it less fun and less interesting to read the middle parts. Which I almost NEVER say.

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    • Maybe the weight of expectation was too much? I can see how you might have been a bit disappointed by the ending though – it definitely makes you look at the middle parts in a whole new way.

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  5. This book does not sound like my kind of thing at all, but I keep hearing great things, so it’s on my list to possibly try this year. I love the quote about posting stuff – so true!

    And this is the first I’ve heard of the pregnancy thing – that definitely has me curious!!

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    • I only really picked it up because a whole bunch of other people raved about it, I may not have gone out of my way to pick it up otherwise. But I’m glad I did in the end.
      The pregnancy thing probably isn’t the most highlighted thing in the book, but it was definitely something that stood out for me and, without moving too far into spoiler territory, it’s definitely relevant to current social debates.

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  6. Great review. I’ve wanted to read this book since before it came out. It’s at the top of my list for when my book-buying ban is over. It sounds so good.

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  7. Ohhh, I’m bouncing in my seat! We noticed so many of the same things. I’m so glad you loved this one as much as I did. 🙂

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    • I need to go back and watch the video you and Julianne did – I’m sure there’s loads of stuff you guys picked up on that I was completely oblivious to. I’m so glad I read it – probably my only issue (not that it’s really one anyway) is the whole ‘Mr Splitfoot’ thing. Like, who is ‘Mr Splitfoot’ really? I get that it’s a nickname of sorts for the Devil, but what does that mean in the context of the novel, and why is that the title given that it’s only mentioned a couple of times?

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  8. Funny how it’s harder to write reviews for books you really loved, as compared to ones you didn’t.

    This book sounds odd and not something I’d ordinarily pick up but I have read loads of good things about it.

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    • I probably wouldn’t have gone out of my way to read it had another couple of trusted bloggers raved about it. But I’m glad I read it in the end – it was surprisingly thought provoking.

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