What a journey this book was… This year, I’m trying to branch out and read in different genres and modes, and this book is definitely something that I wouldn’t have picked up before.
The Hollow Places follows Kara (sometimes called Carrot) who moves in with her uncle to help him run his Museum of Wonders after her divorce. It’s a convenient arrangement for each of them as Kara avoids moving in with her mother – whom she loves, but wouldn’t love living with – and her Uncle Earl has some help while he recovers from surgery. The museum is filled with all sorts of curiosities like taxidermy, the bones of mythical creatures (like the Fiji mermaid), and art, all of which come from a combination of Earl’s collecting and unsolicited objects sent to him from admirers around the world.
One day, Kara finds a hole in the museum’s second floor, and along with Simon the barista from next door, they discover a physically impossible corridor that leads to a door that leads to a bog dotted with grassy bunkers as far as the eye can see. However, in this new place, even more impossible things begin to happen. The other bunkers presumably lead to other worlds or dimensions where things are similar to Earth, but just different enough to feel uncanny. Whatever lives there is “hungry” and “can hear you thinking.” It also defies description as it lives in and behind the world. Simon and Kara get stuck in this land – sometimes called the Willow Land because of the omnipresent willow trees that seem to move of their own accord. There is a really creepy scene on a school bus, and when they meet Sturdivant… chilling.
After finally returning home, Kara and Simon continue to experience aftershocks of trauma and terror, which is exacerbated each time the patch they put on the hole becomes mysteriously damaged or removed.
I must admit, it took me a while to get into the story, especially once Simon and Kara were stuck in the Willow Land. I was not excited to hear about the fate of two people who were stuck in an incomprehensible place, which I’m sure is how the characters felt as well. As the story developed, I found myself more and more curious and scared. Kingfisher’s dark humor definitely helps cut the tension and alleviates the anxiety just enough to make it possible to continue.
I’m still thinking about some of the more gruesome scenes and the Lovecraftian descriptions that are impossible to imagine given my limited ability to think only in three dimensions. Overall, The Hollow Places is a nerve wracking read that was thrilling until the last page.