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Andrew Michael Hurley
The Loney
Tartarus Press
UK Hardcover First Edition
ISBN 978-1-905-78469-1
Publication Date: 10-01-2014
278 Pages; £35.009
Date Reviewed: 12-03-2014
Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel © 2014

Index:  General Fiction  Mystery  Horror

We're told that faith and religious beliefs are part of our neurological make-up. We're hard-wired to be believers, and so escape is impossible. But belief is not so slippery as we might wish. For all t our faith in the ambiguous benevolence of an anonymous power, our power to believe is more limited than admitted. The physical world of day-to-day life has strong hold on our minds. It is a wall which even the strongest belief may be unable to breach.

Andrew Michael Hurley gazes deep into the dark heart of faith in his first novel, 'The Lonely,' a powerfully written tale of faith, reality and what rises from the gulf between the two. In the first pages, we meet Smith as a broken adult, a man haunted by his brother's miraculous cure, deep in their past.

But the storms of England have broken the surface and unearthed that which may not be prayed away. As Smith reaches back into his memory and teases out the story of how his brother Andrew ("Hanny") was transformed, Hurley uses rich prose to transform and transpose time and place, memory and story, faith and reality. The novel is mesmerizing, unusual, engrossing and disturbing.

You can leave your expectations for chase scenes and bad guys behind. Hurley quickly establishes a nuanced, visionary approach to storytelling, quite the opposite of a hurly-burly flight from fear into redemption. As boys, Smith and Hanny grow up under a father Smith calls "Farther" and a mother who is the driving force behind the local church. The old pastor, Father Wilfred, took his flock of believers on annual pilgrimages to a shrine on the forsaken seashores of The Loney. The boys' mother absolutely believed that Hanny, a mute, mentally-disabled child would be cured on these journeys. Eventually, Hanny was. But.

And within that single word, lies an engrossing, creepy story. Hurley does landscape like a fine painter, and every one here is forbidding and deceptive. His evocations of the seashore are enough to put you off your holidays for a decade. And Smith, who tells the story, quickly proves to be more involved than he might want you to — believe. And at that point, at that juncture, what you believe crashes right against what happened. Does it matter that they are not the same?

Hurley has done something that not easily observed in 'The Loney.' He's created a novel with rich, intense characters and places you'll not soon forget — though you might wish to. He realizes that once you get past a certain point, where most of us actually spend most of our time, the fantastic is not so fantastic at all. It's gritty and hard to forget. You must be the master of the story to get the facts to match the fantastic. If what you must believe will cut you off from reality, then you believe it anyway. The edge is sharp, and if it draws blood, then make sure that it is not yours, or that of those you love. Take the blade and tell the story.

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