This was a strange book! Maybe not the strangest book I’ve ever read, but still, pretty fucking strange.
“Lacy Dawn is a little girl who lives in a magical forest where all the trees love her and she has a space alien friend who adores her and wants to make her queen of the universe. What’s more, all the boys admire her for her beauty and brains. Mommy is very beautiful and Daddy is very smart, and Daddy’s boss loves them all.
Lacy Dawn, the eleven-year-old protagonist, perches precariously between the psychosis of childhood and the multiple neuroses of adolescence, buffeted by powerful gusts of budding sexuality and infused with a yearning to escape the grim and brutal life of a rural Appalachian existence. In this world, Daddy is a drunk with severe PTSD, and Mommy is an insecure wraith. The boss is a dodgy lecher, not above leering at the flat chest of an eleven-year-old girl.
Yes, all in one book.
It is a children’s story for adults with a happily ever after ending.”
After reading the synopsis, you’d expect a fucked up fairy tale kind of angle. Which is what happens, to a certain extent, yet it didn’t really flow like a true story. Every chapter felt like a new beginning. In the end, you can basically divide the book into three parts:
The first part is where we meet Lacy Dawn and her dysfunctional family and neighbours. They live in the Hollow, a semi-fictional rural community in the region of Appalachia in the US (I’m calling it semi-fictional because there are plenty of ‘hollows’ out there just like this one). The first chapter opens up with child abuse seeming like the most normal thing in the world to these people. Add some more domestic violence, sexual abuse, smoking pot and welfare kings and queens to the mix and you think you figured it out. That’s when DotCom, an ancient alien android designed to look like a human except for his genital parts, enters the story and everything changes. With the help of DotCom, Lucy Dawn is determined to fix her parents and thereby, creating a better life for herself as well. DotCom also happens to be her boyfriend. Which is okay for a 12-year-old girl because he doesn’t have any genitals anyways.
Even though this might sound batshit crazy to you (and it is, really), I liked this first part of the book the most. Being a European girl who grew up in a relatively wealthy environment, it’s always fascinating to see hillbillies on TV, wondering how on earth people can still live like this in 2016. Then again, we’ve got our own versions of hillbillies here as well and I think if you’re born in such an environment, it’s extremely hard to get out of it. Unless you have a secret alien android boyfriend parked in a spaceship Roundabend of course.
The second part of the book was my least favourite part. It became pretty confusing when Lacy Dawn had to save the universe by going on a shopping spree on another planet, Shptiludrp (which also happens to be the central planet of our universe in Lacy Dawn’s world). It was a test to see if she would be capable enough of solving the actual problems on Shptiludrp and thereby, saving planet Earth in the meantime. You’re still following me? Good, because I’m like this again…
The third part covers the actual saving of the universe. And it involves seducing cockroaches. I really felt like I was on crack throughout the last 40% of the book or so; boy, does the author have a heck of an imagination! Last time I felt this way was when I was reading books from the L.Frank Baum’s Oz series.
Apart from a couple of info dumps that could’ve been skipped if it were up to me, the writing style was good. It was kept simple, yet not simple at all which can be quite an achievement. The psychology that was weaved throughout the book really showed Eggleton’s tremendous experience in the field. Since studying psychological behaviour has always been a hobby of mine, I found the references pretty interesting.
“I guess sometimes a person becomes what he pretends to be. I pretended that I had a good reason to be mad and I was. Then, I pretended that I wasn’t mad and somehow it went away.”
My favourite character was probably Brownie because A. he’s a super smart dog, B. he’s called brownie, duh (he got his name after he stole a brownie instead of a wiener from Lacy Dawn’s plate during a cook-out) and C. he gets embarrassed about his own farts, something I keep hoping my dog will do as well some day. My least favourite character was Jenny, Lacy Dawn’s mother, because all she could think of was dressing up and seducing her husband. While leaving her daughter neglected most of the time.
Even though it sometimes added up to the general confusion, I liked reading the thoughts of every single individual involved in a scene. Even Brownie’s thoughts were captured, which is why I know he’s so embarrassed about his farting.
This is a book which is definitely not meant for everyone. I’m still having a hard time figuring out what I thought of it exactly! There’s a lot of swearing, sexual puns and references, marijuana and crazy town involved. Seeing as I’m Dutch and really can’t be shocked all too much when it comes to drugs, the abundance of smoking pot wasn’t an issue to read about for me at all. I can imagine this doesn’t apply to everyone, though.
Also, if you don’t feel any connection to sci-fi whatsoever, I strongly suggest passing on this one as well because the odd sci-fi twists and turns make it a requirement to having at least a bit of sci-fi imagination hardwired into your brain.
Even though this book is batshit crazy weird, it still delivers the message of why it’s so important to try and prevent child abuse. The naive voice of Faith, Lacy Dawn’s friend who has been killed by her own father, is heartbreakingly shocking and I don’t doubt for a second that there are lots of children who think it’s normal to be treated that way by their parents or feel that they are to be blamed themselves for the abuse.
I ended up giving it 2 brownies because it’s not a bad book by any means, but I can’t say it was really my cup of tea either. I’m positively sure it can be a 5-star rated book for someone else, though!
Links to the book:
A big thank you to Robert Eggleton for providing me a copy of his book in exchange for an honest review!
~About the author~
Robert Eggleton has served as a children’s advocate in an impoverished state for over forty years. He is best known for his investigative reports about children’s programs, most of which were published by the West Virginia Supreme Court where he worked from 1982 through 1997, and which also included publication of models of serving disadvantaged and homeless children in the community instead of in large institutions, research into foster care drift involving children bouncing from one home to the next — never finding a permanent loving family, and statistical reports on the occurrence and correlates of child abuse and delinquency. Today, he is a recently retired children’s psychotherapist from the mental health center in Charleston, West Virginia, where he specialized in helping victims cope with and overcome physical and sexual abuse, and other mental health concerns. Rarity from the Hollow is his debut novel and its release followed publication of three short Lacy Dawn Adventures in magazines: Wingspan Quarterly, Beyond Centauri, and Atomjack Science Fiction. Author proceeds have been donated to a child abuse prevention program operated by Children’s Home Society of West Virginia. http://www.childhswv.org/
Robert continues to write fiction with new adventures based on a protagonist that is a composite character of children that he met when delivering group therapy services. The overall theme of his stories remains victimization to empowerment.