Personally, I’m a big fan of Andrew Michael Hurley. I think his works are properly haunted and I think the best from him is still yet to come. But I’m going to come right out and say that “Starve Acre” was a disappointment for me. This is more of a brief review rather than a full recommendation.
The story follows Richard and Juliette Willoughby who are grieving for the recent death of their 5 year old son Ewan. The novel gradually unveils the Ewan’s past as a troubled kid and how, ever since they moved to the remote and haunted moors of Starve Acre, he’d been acting out at the behest of strange voices in his head. In the present, we follow his parents as they take drastically different approaches to dealing with his death. Juliette is tangibly overtaken with grief. Completely despondent she is convinced that an evil spirit has played a roll in her son’s death. While Richard, an archeologist, prefers to bury himself in work, literally digging away at the land in order to find answers. What he discovers casts a dark dark shadow over their home.
The main fault I find with this story is that it reads like an exceptionally polished first draft. It feels like it starts 150 pages too early, and then ends right when the foundation seems to be set. It’s a shame, because by the end, all I wanted to do was read 200 more pages.
But make no mistake, this book has a lot that is going right. Hurley is a MASTER at 1.) building extremely tense dialogues, 2.) ending sections with devastatingly haunted sentences, and 3.) creating atmospheric settings that you want to lavish in endlessly. You’ll find all of that here.
It’s also worth pointing out that the folklore elements themselves are fascinating(the problem is simply that we don’t spend enough time with what matters).
My love for Hurley was not swayed by this one. He’s clearly a spectacular talent. However, if you are new to him, I’d start with “The Loney” instead.