Bram Stoker Award-nominated author Andy Davidson follows up his 2020 hit novel, The Boatman’s Daughter, with The Hollow Kind, a book that delivers some deliciously delightful Southern gothic horror.
Set across two timelines, Davidson tells two stories that serve one another well in The Hollow Kind. In the first, beginning in the late 1980s, we meet Nellie Gardner and her eleven-year-old son, Max. Nellie, who is in an abusive marriage with her husband, Wade, unexpectedly inherits her grandfather’s mansion and abundant land, which is known as “Redfern Hill.” This gift seems like a way to begin again — a true escape. But as she and Max make their way from South Carolina to their gifted home in Georgia, it becomes clear quickly that their new life might not be what they expect — or want.
As Nellie and Max’s dilemma unfolds, Davidson also takes us deeper into the story of Nellie’s grandfather, August Redfern, and the history of Redfern Hill as we head back near the turn of the 1920s. This second timeline, which extends for almost two decades, aids in providing background about the estate Nellie and Max currently occupy. These sections quickly turn violent and are full of deep-rooted menace, which help build the terror we suspect that lurks in the shadows in the more contemporary story.
Combined, the two timelines in The Hollow Kind work to create a cohesive and well-plotted novel. They also help in giving the (rather) lengthy book a brisk pace. We never really outstay our welcome in any one space before we are in another.
The Hollow Kind is very much a haunted-house novel. Davidson wickedly personifies the Redfern estate early on: “The foyer opens into a long hall like a throat, cavernous rooms on either side. At the far end, a shadowy kitchen, its windows bright with lightning. Between the two rooms on their left, a narrow set of stairs climbs for the second floor, carpet tacked down over it like a threadbare tongue.” In another scene, a character had rather die in a motor home than be inside the grand house. Without spoiling too much, there is also a “dry, scrabbling noise” that haunts from inside the walls. Objects move and shift. Faces and figures, too, appear in windows.
The Hollow Kind, though, isn’t just a haunted-house novel. It’s also a haunted-land novel. Certainly in the physical sense, as one character advises another to literally “feed” the land (and just wait until you read of some of the many horrific hauntings that take place on this land), but also in a metaphorical way. The hauntings turn generational quickly, and we see how early battles of power and money shaped the land — and continue to shape it.
For less patient readers, Davidson’s novel can take some time to unpack. There are a lot of characters, and a few of them take a while to get to know. There are also a couple of moments that shift out of our two main timelines. While they are important and are about the characters we grow to care about, it can be tempting to want be back in their main stories. Still, though, these are only minor qualms.
For this reader, Davidson unequivocally delivers in The Hollow Kind. Those looking for a horror novel for the season will find a lot to love inside these haunting, often-terrifying pages.
The Hollow Kind
By Andy Davidson
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Published October 11, 2022