Author: Samantha Hunt

Category: Literary Fiction

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Deal starts: February 13, 2024

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The strange odysseys of two young women animate this “hypnotic and glowing” American gothic novel that blurs the line between the real and the supernatural (Gregory Maguire, The New York Times Book Review).    A New York Times Editors’ Choice A Paris Review Staff Pick    Ruth and Nat are seventeen. They are orphans living at The Love of Christ! Foster Home in upstate New York. And they may be able to talk to the dead. Enter Mr. Bell, a con man with mystical interests who knows an opportunity when he sees one. Together they embark on an unexpected journey that connects meteor sites, utopian communities, lost mothers, and a scar that maps its way across Ruth’s face. Decades later, Ruth visits her niece, Cora. But while Ruth used to speak to the dead, she now doesn’t speak at all. Even so, she leads Cora on a mysterious mission that involves crossing the entire state of New York on foot. Where is she taking them? And who—or what—is hidden in the woods at the end of the road?  “[A] gripping novel…The narratives, which twist together into a shocking dénouement, are marked by ghost stories.”—The New Yorker

From the Inside Flap Ruth and Nat are seventeen. They are orphans. And they are developing an uncanny ability to talk to the dead. These talents bring them into the orbit of Mr. Bell, a con man with his own mystical interests. Together they embark on an unexpected journey that connects meteor sites, utopian communities, lost mothers, and the scar that maps its way across Ruth?s face.   Decades later and after years of absence, Ruth visits her niece, Cora. But while Ruth used to speak to the dead, she now won?t speak at all. It seems, though, that she has arrived just in time. Cora is in trouble ? single and pregnant and not sure what is in store for her. Aunt Ruth has a plan, even if she?s not telling. Cora knows she must follow. Their journey becomes an odyssey. But where is Ruth taking them? Where has she been all these years? Why won?t she talk? And who ? or what ? is hidden in the woods at the end of the road?     A subversive ghost story that is as haunting in its examination of family, motherhood, and love as it is in its conjuring of the otherworldly, Mr. Splitfoot will set your heart racing and your imagination aflame. Unwinding in an ingenious structure, it tracks two women in two times as they march toward a mysterious, explosive reckoning. A contemporary gothic, it is ?a truly fantastic novel in which the blurring of natural and supernatural creates a stirring, visceral conclusion.?*   *Kirkus Reviews, starred review  --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title. From the Back Cover Praise for Mr. Splitfoot ?Samantha Hunt is astonishing. Her every sentence electrifies. Her characters demand our closest attention. Her new book contains everything that I want in a novel. If I could long-distance mesmerize you, dear reader, into picking up this book and buying it and reading it at once, believe me: I would.? ? Kelly Link ?I'm speechless. Mr. Splitfoot is so inventive, so new; I haven?t read anything like it in years. On the surface it's about false spirituality and the most demented road trip across New York State ever attempted, but it?s also about the horrible ties that bind us and the small acts of redemption that make life almost okay. On top of that, it?s a thrilling page-turner. I couldn?t stop reading it.? ? Gary Shteyngart ?Mr. Splitfoot is lyrical, echoing, deeply strange, with a quality of sustained hallucination. It is the best book on communicating with the dead since William Lindsay Gresham?s Nightmare Alley, but it swaps out that novel?s cynicism for a more life-affirming sense of uncertainty.? ? Luc Sante ?Mr. Splitfoot is an absolutely thrilling book. Filial and maternal love are on display in all their complicated hugeness. But Hunt gives us plenty of humor amid the horror and awe ? and then turns on the lights and shows us what was looming above us the whole time. I can't stop thinking about it.? ? Sarah Manguso       --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title. About the Author Samantha Hunt is an author whose novel about Nikola Tesla, The Invention of Everything Else, was a finalist for the Orange Prize and winner of the Bard Fiction Prize. Her first novel, The Seas, earned her selection as one of the National Book Foundation's 5 under 35. Her novel, Mr. Splitfoot, was a New York Times Editors' Choice and a Paris Review Staff Pick. Her work has appeared in the New Yorker, New York Times Magazine, McSweeney's, Tin House, A Public Space, and many other publications.Original bio sent from Cassandra: Cassandra Campbell began doing voice overs as the voice for Calvin Klein's Italian commercials. This was followed by commercial and documentary recording in both English and Italian. She has recorded many audiobooks and has received several AudioFile Earphones Awards as well as an Audie(R) Award nomination. As an actress and director, she has worked at the Public, the Mint, the Berkshire Theatre Festival, Stagewest, Theatreworks, the Baltimore Shakespeare Festival, Millmountain Theatre, the National Shakespeare Company, and the New York Fringe Festival. Emily Woo Zeller is an Audie and Earphones Award-winning narrator, voice-over artist, actor, dancer, and choreographer. AudioFile magazine named her one of the Best Voices of 2013. Her voice-over career includes work in animated film and television in Southeast Asia. --This text refers to the audioCD edition. From School Library Journal At 17, orphans Ruth and Nat are on the brink of aging out of the religious cult they live in. Nat, who claims to talk with the dead, shares his visions with the other children, while Ruth helps him set the stage. When con man Mr. Bell comes to the home, he discovers in them a perfect scam, and he recruits them to join him in his travels. Years later, Ruth arrives at her sister's home and entices her niece Cora to join her on a walking journey. Cora, practical, hardworking, pregnant by a married man, is unconnected to her own life and willingly goes with Ruth. The walking is hard, but Cora is fascinated by her silent aunt and is certain that Ruth is taking her somewhere important. In alternating chapters, readers follow teenage Ruth and Nat as they travel, while Cora and Ruth's present-day walking journey bridges the past into a ghostly present that provides a way for Cora to connect not only with Nat but with the baby who is inching its way into her life. It is perplexing why Cora follows the silent Ruth, but Ruth's story demands to be told, and Hunt delivers it in a prose style that dwells within another realm, allowing disbelief to be easily suspended. Much like Cora, who blindly follows Ruth into the wilds beyond her home, readers will wonder where they are going and by joining the protagonists' journey will discover that what they imagine they know about someone is often quite different from the reality. VERDICT Hunt's lyrical writing and compelling tale are perfect for well-read teens.—Connie Williams, Petaluma High School, CA --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title. Review A truly fantastic novel in which the blurring of natural and supernatural creates a stirring, visceral conclusion.-- "Kirkus Reviews (starred review)"An escapist adventure, a gothic page-turner that is also so finely crafted that you'll feel enriched as well as transported for having read it.-- "Esquire"An intriguing mystery with clues, suspense, enigmas galore, and an exhilarating, witty, poignant paean to the unexplainable, the unsolvable, the irreducibly mysterious.-- "Boston Globe"An American gothic fever dream.-- "Chicago Tribune"Ethereal...The book deftly straddles the slippery line between fantasy and reality...This spellbinder is storytelling at its best.-- "Publishers Weekly (starred review)"Hypnotic and glowing.-- "New York Times Book Review"Motherhood, religious zeal, poverty, predation, and the frailty yet relentlessness of life are among the rich themes that Hunt explores here.-- "Booklist (starred review)" joining the protagonists' journey will discover that what they imagine they know about someone is often quite different from the reality.-- "School Library Journal"The historical and the fantastical entwine like snakes in...this blend of romance and phantoms.-- "Washington Post"Zombies are out, ghosts are in. Ms. Hunt...taps into the cultural zeitgeist with a new novel blurring the natural and supernatural.-- "Wall Street Journal" --This text refers to the audioCD edition. Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved. Far from here, there’s a church. Inside the church, there’s a box. Inside the box is Judas’s hand.” Nat is slight and striking as a birch branch. “Who cut it off?” Ruth asks. “How?” But Nat’s a preacher in a fever. His lesson continues with a new topic. “Baby deer have no scent when they are born.” Nat conducts the air. “Keeps those babies safe as long as their stinking mothers stay far away.” This is how Nat loves Ruth. He fills her head with his wisdom. “My mom doesn’t stink.” “You don’t even know who your mom is, Ru.” “Of course I do. She’s a veterinarian. She already had too many animals when I was born.” “I don’t believe you.” Ruth looks left, then right. “OK. She’s a bank robber. When you’re asleep, she brings me money.” “Where’s all the cash, then? Are you hiding it in some big cardboard box?” So Ruth swerves again, returning to the version of a mother she uses most often. “I mean my mom’s a bird, a red cardinal.” “A male? Your mom’s a boy?” “Yeah.” “No, she isn’t. She’s a stone. Bones. I spit on her.” Nat steals confidence from thin air. Ruth pulls her long dress tight across bent knees. She doesn’t even know enough about mothers to fabricate a good one. Her idea of a mother is like a non-dead person’s idea of heaven. It must be great. It must be huge. It must be better than what she’s got now. “I’m just saying, wherever she is, she doesn’t stink.” Nat flips the feathers of his hair. “Wherever she is. Exactly.” He holds his hand in a ray of sunlight. “I’m here now.” He lifts the hand that touched light up to her ear, squeezing the lobe, an odd, familiar affection between their bodies. Nat touches the scar on her face, tangled knots of tissue, keloids dots on her nose and cheeks. “Do you know how they deliver mail to the bottom of the Grand Canyon?” “No.” “I taught you this before. Please.” Nat is cruel or Nat is gentle. Nat hates/loves Ruth as much as he hates/loves himself. He’ll say, “Sleep on the floor tonight” or “I’m taking your blue coat. I like it” or “Stop crying right now.” But he’ll also say, “Eat this” and “You can dance, girl” and “Stay the fuck away from Ruth, or I’ll slice your ear cartilage off and give it to a dog to chew on.” When the Father raises a switch, Nat gives his back. “Are you just someone who wants to stay stupid?” “No. Tell me.” “Mules.” She wrinkles her nose. “Don’t believe me? You’re welcome to shop elsewhere.” “I believe you. You’re the only shop in town.” They are alone in Love of Christ!’s bright living room. They are happiest when they are alone together. “Tell me what you know about light.” “Not much.” “It’s the fastest thing in the world.” “Faster than Jesus?” “Way faster than Jesus.” Dust turns before her eyes. “OK. I believe you.” Nat looks right at her, smiles. “What killed Uncle Sam?” She imagines a forgotten relative, an inheritance, a home. “Who’s that?” “Samuel Wilson, the meatpacking man once called Uncle Sam. Symbol of our nation? He’s buried just down the road apiece. You didn’t even know Uncle Sam was dead.” “I didn’t know Uncle Sam was a real person. What killed him?” “Stupidity, girl. Stupidity.” His, she wonders, or mine?   Nothing is near here, upstate New York. The scope of the galaxy seems reasonable. Light, traveling ten thousand years to reach Earth, makes sense because from here even the city of Troy, three miles away, is as distant as Venus. What difference could ten thousand light years make? Nat and Ruth have never been to Manhattan. The Love of Christ! Foster Home, Farm, and Mission is a brick bear spotted with mange. Handiwork from days past??—??ledge and brace doors, finger-joint chair rails, and hardwood floors??—??is being terrorized by state-provided, institutional, indestructible furniture common to dormitories and religious organizations. The house’s wooden floors are smooth as a gun butt. In summer Drosophila melanogaster breed in the compost pile. Each snaggletooth of a homestead constructed during the Civil War pleases Father Arthur, lord of the domain, founder of Love of Christ! “Hand of the creator,” he says. Clapboards that keep out only some of the wind; sills that have slipped off square; splinters as long as fingers. The house is always cold with a useless hearth since the State frowns on foster home fireplaces. “Meddlers!” Father Arthur unleashed his rage against bureaucracy, using a sledge on the innocent, elderly chimney. Now once a day when the sun reaches alignment, a sliver of light shines into the house through the busted-up flue, a precise astronomical calendar if anyone knew how to read it. At Love of Christ! children feel the Lord, and the Lord is often furious and unpredictable, so Father Arthur cowers from corrupting influences. No Walt Disney, soda pop, or women’s slacks pass his threshold. The children milk goats, candle and collect eggs, preserve produce, and make yogurt from cultures they’ve kept alive for years. Blessed be the bacteria. The children remain ignorant of the bountiful mysteries filling the nearby Price Chopper. Boys at Love of Christ! wear black cotton pants and solid tops from a limited palette of white, tan, or brown. The girls wear plain dresses last seen on Little House on the Prairie reruns. Simple fabric, a few pale flowers, a modest length for working. Fingernails are clean and rounded. Teeth are scrubbed with baking soda. The old ways survive, and seasonal orders dictate. But??—??like the olivine-bronzite chondrite meteor that surprised a Tomhannock Creek farmer back in 1863??—??corruption has a way of breaking through. New charges arrive with words from the outside: mad cow disease, La-Z-Boy recliner, Barbie doll. “You know what Myst is?” Ruth asks Nat. “M.I.S.T. Yes. A secretive branch of the Marines. Surprised you’ve heard of it.” He works with more confidence than facts. “I thought it was a video game.” “Video game? What’s that?”   When they had mothers, Nat’s read him books and fed him vitamins until a bad man bit off the tip of her right breast and told her he’d be back for the left one. She didn’t stop driving until she reached New York State. She left Nat at a babysitter’s house, disappearing with a hero from the personal ads, a man who appreciated firm thighs more than tiny kids and perfect breasts. Nat set fire to his first group home. No one died. Ruth never knew her mom, but when she was young, her sister, Eleanor, lived at Love of Christ! El was like a mom. She petted Ruth at night, told Ruth she was beautiful despite the messed-up scar on her face. “When you were a baby,” El said, “you used to point at birds.” Then Eleanor turned eighteen. “Real sorry.” The Father woke them with a fist on the door. “Time to go.” El jumped up. Ruth froze cold. She was only five. El stalled her departure in the driveway, but Ruth didn’t appear. “Bye,” El spoke to the house. No sign of Ruth. No blood vow to find one another once El got settled. It would be a long time before El would be able to come for her, if El, an unemployed eighteen-year-old, would ever be able to come for her five-year-old sister. Ruth breathed into the window upstairs, looked down on the driveway scene, a surgery in some anatomy theater removing the only familiar thing she’d ever known. El was leaving in the truck. Ruth had no idea where it would take her. A bus station? The YWCA? Some mall parking lot in the capital with eighty bucks and a crucifix from the Father in her bag? Ruth pushed harder into the pane. A black thread, lashed around the chrome bumper, yanked an organ from Ruth’s chest, dragged it in the dirt behind the Father’s truck like a couple of gory beer cans. Ruth said nothing for two weeks. No one noticed. Eventually the State brought the Father a replacement, a boy named Nat who’d had trouble with matches and kerosene. The Word became flesh and lived among them. The Word became flesh and lived among them. “You can be my sister now,” Ruth told him. That was the Word. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.