By Sophia Whitfield
This debut novel from Andrew Michael Hurley charts the desperate longing of a mother to find a cure for Hanny, her adolescent son, who has never spoken and displays the behaviour and mannerisms of a much younger child.
Narrated by Hanny’s brother, he describes the gathering of friends and family that set off on their holiday to The Loney, a place they visit once a year to pray for Hanny’s recovery.
“If it had another name, I never knew, but the locals called it the Loney - that strange nowhere between the Wyre and the Lune where Hanny and I went every Easter time with Mummer, Farther, Mr and Mrs Belderboss and Father Wilfred, the parish priest.”
Father Wilfred has died in ambiguous circumstances, his faith shaken at the end of his life. In his place is Father Bernard, a gentler, kinder soul who can’t quite align himself with the fanatical beliefs of his charges. He has been instructed to go on this pilgrimage, which begins badly and ends tragically.
The stark, barren land described by Hurley compliments the raw feelings that come to the surface during this strange pilgrimage.
In a place bereft of hope, haunting pagan rituals begin to unfold driving members of the group away. Hanny and his brother become embroiled in seemingly supernatural activities they have been warned to avoid.
Despite the terribleness around her, Hanny’s mother remains focused on her one goal. She is disappointed in the mild manner of Father Bernard, continually instructing him in the rituals that Father Wilfred undertook. Determined to keep her mission in sight she displays both insanity and desperation in her pursuit and continued belief in a miracle cure God will bestow on her son.
A haunting, beautifully told debut, The Loney is an immersive read that well deserves its Costa First Novel Award shortlisting. Buy the book here.
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