Magic Realism or…? Time to play GUESS MY GENRE
If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about the answers. —Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow, 1973
How can you tell if a book or film is magic realism? Let’s say you go to work and you notice that your colleague Stan is already at his desk, hard at work. This comes as a bit of a surprise because you went to Stan’s funeral yesterday.
- If Stan is somewhat see-through and keeps fading in and out, but he’s still pretty much nailing that presentation for the TELAWKI project you were both working on, it’s an urban fantasy and you try to keep him under wraps at least until after you wrap up the contract.
- If bits of Stan keep breaking off and he starts to take an unhealthy interest in your brainssss, it’s a Zombie Apocalypse fantasy, and you send him up to corporate where he’ll fit right in.
- If Stan is a hologram sent by a galactic princess to steal TELAWKI’s evil death star plans, this is SciFi and you’re probably a robot or at least a conflicted android.
- If Stan turns out to have faked his death and has come back to stop TELAWKI’s global conspiracy, it’s number 237 in the Bourne Series, and really—who cares?
- If nobody pays attention to Stan except to stand around bitching about the way billable hours are allocated on the TELAWKI project even though TELAWKI is the code name for The End of Life As We Know It, it’s magic realism** and Stan is an Ironic Reminder of something or other.
(**Unless Stan’s drinking a beer, in which case it’s probably a commercial for Corona.)
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.
- Book Title: Rarity From the Hollow
- Author: Robert Eggleton
- Genre: Magic Realism
- Length: 284 pages
- Release Date: June 16, 2012 (Dog Horn Publishing)
Contacts and Buy-Links
My review: 3 out of 5 stars for Rarity From the Hollow
Magic Realism: a literary genre or style that incorporates fantastic or mythical elements into otherwise realistic fiction. (Miriam Webster)
When we lived in SW Virginia, we heard a lot of remarks about West Virginia residents. According to our neighbors, they were almost all the product of incest, raised in an atmosphere of ignorance, child abuse, and distrust, hidden from the world deep in their hollers. In their narrative, the cocktail of poverty, ignorance, and seclusion meant that those results were inevitable and irreparable.
Set in Appalachia, Rarity From the Hollow deals with one of the most painful topics possible—child abuse. We meet two little girls, and hear them try to live in a world that includes violence, sexual assault, incest, drug and substance abuse, mental illness, and murder. When little Lacy Dawn turns to inanimate objects such as the trees around her for emotional support and guidance, it’s a compelling and believable image.
But it’s also the story of magical realism in which the the squalor of Lacy’s life is systematically repaired by a bemused alien. The alien, DotCom, hails from a giant shopping mall planet called Shptiludrp that involves a complicated rewards system for those who do just what the planet’s name suggests and “Shop Till You Drop”.
And that’s the problem. For me, the two very different stories never successfully match up. Since the author was a children’s psychotherapist with a particular focus on victims of child abuse, I accept that those aspects of the story are accurate reflections of past incidents and patients. However, when it comes to integrating the stories, there is just too big a disconnect for me. Child abuse isn’t an ideal topic for humor, although Roald Dahl does make the most of its possibilities. By the same token, the light-hearted spoof of our modern materialistic world never fits comfortably against the horrors of abused little girls.
The characters in the novel do develop and grow from their shallow, often violent and/or mentally ill beginnings. Unfortunately, because this occurs as a result of magic alien technology, it’s not clear what their changes mean in the long run. On the one hand, the writing itself takes risks that support the overall storyline, such as the decision to have a variety of characters’ internal thoughts presented as simple text following their verbal statements. But I found the pace of the story uneven, the character-development driven by alien’s magic “cure” somewhat unsatisfying, and the plot deeply divided between a description of Lacy’s abusive and dangerous world and the whimsical, vaguely Ayn Rand-meets-Willie Wonka world of her alien mentor.
I would give Rarity From the Hollow three stars. Author Robert Eggleton has created a believable and compelling world where a robot risks capture in order to rescue the one little girl destined to save the universe. I just wish he had spent more time tying the two stories—child abuse victim and destined Chosen One—together better.
*I received this book for free from the publisher or author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my 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.
Robert created the Lacy Dawn Adventures project in 2006. Many of his stories have been social science fiction or literary science fiction, include serious social commentary and satire, and feature a female adolescent victim empowered to fulfill her destiny as a kickass savior of the universe. The protagonist is a composite character based on real-life kids that Robert met over the years in his work.
Today, Robert 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/