If you want to talk to ghosts, you have to summon Mr. Splitfoot. Who is Mr. Splitfoot, you might ask? Well, I’m obviously not going to tell you that. You’ll just have to find out for yourself.
Samantha Hunt’s Mr. Splitfoot is a ghost story filled with mediums, cult leaders, terrifying men and a boatload of tragedy. Seventeen-year-olds Ruth and Nat met when they were five at Love of Christ!, a foster home led by the abysmal and prejudiced Father and the Mother. Ruth and Nat have the closest relationship imaginable; they call each other sisters and sleep head-to-toe in the same bed every night. They also have a habit of talking to ghosts.
A generation later, we meet Ruth’s niece Cora. In a desperate and sporadic decision, she joins Ruth on a journey across New York. The only problem? Ruth doesn’t talk and Cora has no idea where the hell they’re going.
A Gothic Delight
Shall I come
Shall I come back
Shall I come back again?”-Samantha Hunt, Mr. Splitfoot page 29
Hunt has a knack for writing strange, compassionate and witty tales. Not unlike her other works The Seas and The Dark Dark: Stories, Mr. Splitfoot’s strangely wonderful characters are both nuanced and a thrill to read. What I found most refreshing is how unique the cult leaders are in this book. There are so, so many fictional white Manson-type desert hippies. And while I understand this is an archetype for a reason, I am tired of reading such cookie-cutter characters. That is why I appreciate how Samantha Hunt gives us people like the Father and the Mother and the charismatic Mardellion. They are original, while also reminiscent of and just as sadistic as real life leaders Marshall Applewhite and Warren Jeffs. Hunts’ fiction illustrates the vastness of religion and belief, with a concentration on just how deep it can pull any person in.
I loved reading this book. My main criticisms are the “all foster homes are bad” stereotype present throughout the story, along with some off-putting, micro-aggressive character descriptions. Now, I know the latter are the characters’ points of view and these comments are how they view the world. Still – and I understand that this is probably more of a me-problem – they bother me and I just can’t seem to shake them off. Additionally, there are a few continuity errors in the dialogue. However, the errors are slight enough that they don’t take away from the overall quality.
Mr. Splitfoot is a delightful and tragic read. The prose is poetic, the characters are enthralling and the buildup to the twist is so satisfying to experience. As Charlotte Brontë’s review from the grave states, this contemporary gothic is just “what people want”.(4 / 5)