Audiobook Review: The Hollow Kind by Andy Davidson
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 2 of 5 stars
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Macmillan Audio (October 11, 2022)
Length: 13 hrs and 11 mins
This year, I find many of my low ratings have been given to good books that didn’t quite float my boat for whatever reason. Generally, their stories are sound and the writing solid from a craft perspective, but maybe something in the style or pacing just didn’t work for me. The Hollow Kind is one of these books. Artistically, it is a well put together horror with a fascinating premise at its heart, but I had a hell of a time trying to get through it.
First off, it is a very complex family saga spanning generations and timelines, and to be a fair, these types of stories aren’t always the best suited for audio, which is the format I reviewed. As the book opens in 1989, we follow Nellie Gardner and her eleven-year-old son Max on their journey to Redfern Hill in Georgia, where she had just inherited her grandfather’s estate. There, they find a rundown house surrounded by a dying forest, which is all that’s left of a once proud turpentine mill. Although it’s not the prettiest place, it’s the safest Nellie can provide for Max while they go in hiding from her abusive husband, Wade. But soon after they move in, mother and son begin hearing unsettling noises from within the house’s dilapidated walls and experiencing strange things they can’t explain.
In a separate thread, the story also reveals the history the Redfern Hill, following Nellie’s grandfather August. This part of the tale begins in 1917, when August marries into the Baxter family and takes over their burgeoning turpentine business. This event also sets off a bitter dispute carrying into the present in which Lonnie Baxter, believing that the Redferns stole the mill from his family years ago, launches an aggressive campaign to retake the property by pressuring Nellie to sell. However, what no one realizes is that the place is cursed. Back when he tended the land, August thought he understood the evil force that lurked within the forest but quickly learned that the monster’s hunger will never be appeased.
Overall, The Hollow Kind is a unique take on a southern gothic horror novel, but the plot’s construction and its unconventional trajectories meant at times it became difficult to follow, and the pacing was slow. After having to restart the book multiple times because I kept zoning out during the intro, I almost gave up. I will say though, once each timeline gets a chance to get established, some things improved while a few other problems persisted.
One such problem was the overall flow of the novel. With the frequent switching between the two eras and the awkward transitioning, it wasn’t always clear who I was following right away, especially with my attention constantly in danger of wandering. As a result, I was often left feeling lost and disoriented. Granted, this problem was likely exacerbated by the audio format, but I feel in general the pacing was jerky and inconsistent, giving my brain whiplash as we went from the highs to the lows. There’s certainly no denying the story had its moments, but these were too few and far between, and when things dragged, they slow to a crawl.
I also felt ambivalent towards the characters. That said, that may have a lot to do with many of them being guilty of doing terrible things, and the theme of darkness and violence hidden in people’s hearts is one that crops up again and again. On the positive note though, the author does much better with the supernatural darkness of the novel, the demonic entity beneath the surface and the horrors that it manifests. While most of the time the story moved too slowly for me to fully appreciate the gothic atmosphere, when it came time for the outright terrifying and grotesque elements of the story to shine, that was when The Hollow Kind was at its best.
Still, even with its occasional high points, at the end of the day this book failed to hold my interest for the long term and I was underwhelmed by the overall experience due to the awkward structure and rough pacing. I also tend to struggle with audiobooks for stories featuring multiple timelines and/or perspectives with only one narrator, so despite the impressive performance by Susis James, I had a hard time getting into The Hollow Kind.