Title: Mr Splitfoot
Author: Samantha Hunt
Genre: Fiction (literary/a little bit of scary stuff)
Release Date: 2016
“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?”
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.”
“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).