Robert Eggleton, the author of Rarity from the Hollow, sent a remarkably in-depth letter describing his book when he reached out for a review a while back. In that message, he described a book that dealt directly and viscerally with issues of child abuse, poverty, and sexuality—a book that explores how children’s lives are affected by the kinds of cruelty that exist within the home and without.
When I finally sat down to open the book , I anticipated a hard-hitting, visceral approach to the topics of child abuse (particularly sexual abuse), and while it was referenced in the book, it was more of a set dressing.
Eggleton paints a picture of a dysfunctional family in a dilapidated, forgotten hollow somewhere in West Virginia. The abusive father, a gulf war vet, ruling the moment-to-moment lives of his wife and young daughter with a switch and his radically shifting moods. The mother, a “classic” example of a victim. And the daughter, Lacy Dawn, the story’s protagonist, who is a peculiar little girl. More about Lacy Dawn in a bit.
The setting is evocative, but it doesn’t appear to say anything about the trauma and hardship of PTSD and physical and sexual abuse; it only acknowledges its presence. A friend of Lacy Dawn’s is violently and sexually abused by her father (and possibly other men in her family), and is eventually killed, leaving Lacy Dawn lonely and determined to save her parents to succumbing to, well, themselves.
If this were the story of a little girl working on her own to help herself, her sick and abusive father, and her uneducated mother, it’d be one thing. Lacy Dawn does, after all, help her family with the many problems that plague it, and eventually the relationships between them are (somewhat) healthy and positive. But she doesn’t do so on her own, or through her own power.
The story takes a few turns that render it less and less stable, less and less functional commentary about the things that Eggleton claims to be addressing. Lacy Dawn is special because she has access to an alien robot, named DotCom, who lives in a hidden spaceship in a cave on the hill, who has implanted her with a reception port that allows him to educate her quickly and efficiently. She falls in love with DotCom, and most of the first third of the story involves Lacy Dawn and DotCom conspiring to heal her parents using advanced medicines that would require her to put implant ports in her parents bodies. (Granted, that’s not all that happens in the first third, but it is the stuff of consequence that happens therein.) After the administration of medication, psychological as well as physical, the family is healed and begins to function with relative normalcy. Dad gets a job working for the local pot grower. Mom gets her driver’s license and GED. Lacy Dawn is finally ready to hear why she’s special.
That great reveal turns out to be a bit of a let-down. DotCom takes Lacy Dawn (and her mom) to his home planet, which is distractingly named Shtpildrp (or something like it. I’m not kidding), which is the epicenter of economic activity in the universe/galaxy. It is a gigantic mall.
What follows that reveal is a somewhat sprawling and complex narrative that seems to have little to do with the purported message of the novel. It becomes a somewhat-confusing thought experiment, a treatise in support of radical capitalism. Lacy Dawn is given a mission: to save the universe. From what? You don’t know until the very end, and that reveal, too, is disappointing.
It seems like there are two stories in Rarity from the Hollow. In one, an abused little girl fights to get her family to a state of normalcy and love—which can be construed as problematic on its own—and in the other, a rural girl falls in love with a robot and has to prove that she is the best at shopping, then selling her wares at a markup. Bonus points for shoe-horned sexual tension between everyone, and a robot that slowly grows a penis.
I wanted to like Rarity from the Hollow, based on the pitch sent over by Robert Eggleton. The book I read differed wildly from what was presented, though, and I couldn’t connect to that at all. It’s certainly an intriguing concept, but one that could have benefited from more deep developmental editing.
Rarity from the Hollow is available on Amazon.