By Andrew Michael Hurley
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (294 pages, $25)
A menacing presence inhabits the Loney, the locals’ name for Britain’s north Lancashire coastline.
A small group of Catholic faithful have traveled to the rain-battered seacoast from London on an Easter pilgrimage to visit a fabled shrine in hopes of a miracle cure for one of the travelers. The young man is simple-minded and cannot speak, but he has a pure heart and a deep love for his younger brother, our narrator.
As Easter week wears on, the boys venture out to explore the dangerous coast and stumble onto a sinister scene. Back at the cottage, the pilgrims are bedeviled by gunplay and threats from ne'er-do-well villagers. They have bouts when their belief in God is shaken, and they witness mystical healings and unexplained events that bring their faith full circle. Throughout their travails, the Loney takes on a life of its own, brooding and powerful, becoming the one character in Andrew Michael Hurley’s dark tale that will not be ignored.
We live through the last wretched hours of the Londoners’ visit with only a vague understanding of a tragedy and supernatural wonder that has taken place. Then we fast-forward decades to the present day and find the brothers grown and estranged, both of them forever changed by their last night in the Loney.
This impressive first novel is luxuriously written, with dialogue springing from richly developed characters. “The Loney” has won awards and accolades from such reviewers as horror master Stephen King (“It’s not just good, it’s great”) and won the Costa First Novel Award, among other distinctions. Nothing about it disappoints. (TNS)