It’s easy to dismiss “spoiler alert” people for obsessing over what’s in a story rather than caring about how that story is actually told. Then a book like Mr. Splitfoot comes along, and you realize that this is a case where the spooky details matter—not because of something as shallow as “spoilers,” but because you’ll want to savor every fiendish bit of this book. With her latest novel, Samantha Hunt has delivered a gothic tale that’s both deliciously creepy and emotionally satisfying, combining supernatural intrigue and thematic weight.
The novel opens with the story of Ruth and Nat, two orphans living in a kind of extremist cult who learned to channel the dead with the help of a con man and then discovered something dark. Years later, Ruth’s niece Cora becomes unexpectedly pregnant, and her Aunt Ruth appears to lead her on a mysterious journey across New York. Aunt Ruth’s life, and the purpose of her quest, are the stuff of deep, dark, luscious mystery, and this journey leads us to the heart of the novel and its gloomy secrets.
Hunt’s confidence in her story propels the book from page one, a task made all the more impressive when you consider the murky waters it traverses. Mr. Splitfoot is about the divide between the natural and the supernatural, between faith and reason, and in the hands of a storyteller like Hunt—an Orange Prize finalist and a winner of the National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35” prize—the novel becomes something truly special. If you’re a lover of rule-breaking ghost stories, spoiler alert: Mr. Splitfoot is for you.