Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt

mr splitfoot Hunt’s ethereal third novel (after Orange Prize–finalist The Invention of Everything Else) is a nod to the mid-19th-century legend of the Fox sisters, mediums who conjured up a devilish spirit they called Mr. Splitfoot in order to separate the gullible from their money. The book deftly straddles the slippery line between fantasy and reality in a story that’s both gripping and wonderfully mystifying. Hailing from the Love of Christ! Foster Home, Farm, and Mission—a halfway house filled with damaged souls and run by a conniving religious kook—Ruth and Nat occupy their turbulent adolescent years pretending they can talk to dead people. When they reach 18, the two latch on to a mysterious benefactor who convinces them to use their skill for cash. Decades later, a newly pregnant Cora—Ruth’s niece—awakens to find the long-absent Ruth standing by her bedside and is whisked off on a wild goose chase across New York. Where they’re going and why, the mute Ruth won’t say. Hunt’s use of a split narrative to measuredly disclose snippets of Ruth’s past and Cora’s present in alternating, interconnected chapters builds suspense while keeping readers guessing about what crazy turn might happen next. Hints of what’s in store for readers include a cult of Etherists, a noseless man, a pile of lost money, and a scar-like pattern of meteorite landings. This spellbinder is storytelling at its best.  (Jan.)

Originally ran in PublishersWeekly (October 12, 2015)

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