Rarity from the Hollow -- Latest Review
I Owe One to Robert Eggleton
By Evelyn Somers, The Missouri Review
Earlier this year I was contacted by a first-time novelist asking if I would review his forthcoming e-book. If people knew how many requests of this kind editors get, they would understand that out of self-preservation we sometimes . . . well, I ignored it.
Robert tried again. There was something in the tone of his e-mail. Clearly this mattered to him. So I said yes, I’d take a look, though I didn’t think we could review Rarity From the Hollow. This is all fogged somewhat in memory: in the months since then our magazine moved its office, I was hospitalized for a cat bite (yes, they’re dangerous!), we’ve published several issues, read hundreds of manuscripts, I went to Africa, etc., etc. But as I recall, Robert sent me the first chapter, which begins with two impoverished schoolgirls (from the Hollow of the title) studying together and spelling the word for an adult sex toy. It was quirky, profane, disturbing. I said I’d look at the book, not entirely sure what I could do to help.
He sent me the whole thing. I read portions of the book, which is subtitled “A Lacy Dawn Adventure,” after the girl protagonist, Lacy Dawn. I liked Lacy, who lives in a world of poverty, classmates with precocious sexual knowledge and/or experience, unemployed men, worn-down women and cruelty so casual that it’s more knee-jerk than intentional. Maybe I was just too bothered by the content, but at a certain point I knew I just couldn’t do anything. Time was nonexistent.
So I deleted the book.
Robert contacted me again, and I got soft. You see, there was something about the whole project in general. Robert is a social worker who has spent at least a portion of his career working with child-abuse victims in Appalachia. The book was partly about that, and mostly very strange. In the Hollow, Lacy takes up with an android named DotCom, from “out of state,” which really means out of this world. Under DotCom’s wing, she decides that she will “save” her family. Little does she know she will end up saving the universe. Robert was donating the proceeds from sales to help child-abuse victims.
Robert is not a kid; he’s maybe my age, maybe older. This wasn’t about youthful ambition, vanity and reputation. It was about some kind of personal calling. I believe in those. I also believe in people who are driven to get their writing out there to an audience, through whatever venue. The e-book idea intrigued me. The earnestness of the appeal got to me. Send the book again, I said. He did. It’s still on my hard drive. (I suppose I should delete it, since I haven’t paid for it.)
Robert kept after me. If I liked it, could I write a blurb? Yeah, of course. I was fund-raising for my African trip (a Habitat build), teaching, editing, raising three kids. But who isn’t busy? We set our own priorities. I put Robert and his book lower than some other things, which really wasn’t fair because I said I would do something, and I didn’t.
And it has bothered me. Here’s another thing people don’t know about editors. They sometimes have consciences about books/stories/poems/whatever that they’ve allowed to get lost or neglected in the shuffle of what amounts to thousands of pages.
So I’m belatedly giving Rarity From the Hollow a plug. Among its strengths are an ultra-convincing depiction of the lives, especially the inner lives, of the Appalachian protagonists. The grim details of their existence are delivered with such flat understatement that at times they almost become comic. And just when you think enough is enough, this world is just too ugly, Lacy’s father (who is being “fixed” with DotCom’s help) gets a job and Lacy, her mother and her dog take off for a trip to the mall “out of state” with Lacy’s android friend, now her “fiancé” (though as Lacy’s mother points out, he doesn’t have any private parts, not even “a bump.”) In the space between a few lines we go from hardscrabble realism to pure sci-fi/fantasy. It’s quite a trip.
Rarity is published by FatCat Press, which has other e-books for sale as well. You can find it at www.fatcatpress.com
. The blurb on the website says in part:
Lacy Dawn is a true daughter of Appalachia, and then some. She lives in a hollow with her mom, her Vietnam Vet dad, and her mutt Brownie, a dog who's very skilled at laying fiber-optic cable. Lacy Dawn's android boyfriend, DotCom, has come to the hollow with a mission. His equipment includes infomercial videos of Earth's earliest proto-humans from millennia ago. DotCom has been sent by the Manager of the Mall on planet Shptiludrp: he must recruit Lacy Dawn to save Earth, and they must get a boatload of shopping done at the mall along the way. Saving Earth is important, but shopping – well, priorities are priorities.
Yes, priorities are. I should have had mine in order. Robert Eggleton’s book deserves your attention. Check it out.