Kara, also known as Carrot, has to move back to her home town after a breakdown of her marriage. Instead of living with her mother, who she loves but constantly butts heads with, Carrot moves into the back room of her Uncle Earls museum. The Glory to God Museum of Natural Wonders, Curiosities, and Taxidermy usually referred to a The Wonder Museum. Simon works in the coffee shop next door and lives above it, he’s weird and flamboyant, and very quickly becomes Carrots only real friend in the small American town where the book is set. Before too long things start to go a little weird in the already really weird museum when they stumble upon a portal to another world.
T. Kingfisher manages to write three main characters with so much depth and heart to them, as well as little bubbles in the world that I think we can all relate to. The ability to write a character like Uncle Earl, with all his conspiracy theories; Bigfoot, aliens, mermaids, the list goes on, but then write him in a way that makes you think “oh yeah, I know someone just like that” even if you’ve never met anyone like that in your life. It’s incredible.
My favourite character is Simon, without a doubt, he’s very openly gay and camp without it feeling like Kingfisher is writing a dull stereotype that I’ve read a million times before. His love of weird fashion, makeup, and men isn’t ever pointed out or jeered at. It’s just a part of who he is, a very big part, but a part none the less. He also likes sipping on tequila (madman) and drinking too much coffee (that, I can relate to). It’s really wonderful to read about a man who will go into an alternate reality, face unimaginable horrors, and knows DIY, all while wearing fishnet tights. He’s not diminished or assumed to be a weak person because he wears women’s clothes and makeup. This was really refreshing to me, and it made me fall in love with the novel even more.
Have you ever been to a cabinet of curiosities museum? Like the Victorian ones filled with taxidermy two-headed snakes and jars of teeth? I imagine the Wonder Museum to be a lot like that but if it was curated by Gruncle Stan from Disney’s Gravity Falls. I’ve never been to a place that fits that description, I don’t even know if it exists, but Kingfisher writes about it so vividly that I can mash together places I’ve been or seen and suddenly I’m there. Her ability to take you somewhere so out of this world and make it feel so tangible is extremely impressive. This talent continues when she takes you to this other world, full of willow trees, rivers, and the most terrifying things I’ve ever read about.
The Hollow Places is what happens when you combine The Magician’s Nephew by C.S Lewis, Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer, and just a touch of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. The downside of it reminding me of all these amazing books is that I couldn’t stop comparing it to them, Kingfisher herself can’t stop talking about the wood between worlds from The Magician’s Nephew. I think that might have hurt her a little because when you remind the reader of other stories, they can’t help but start comparing it to them. Especially when it’s a similar concept. But this also leads the story to become a little predictable, I wasn’t reading the book thinking “Oh my God, I wonder what happens next” because it followed the usual pattern of a we-accidentally-fell-into-another-world book. But what did keep me glued to The Hollow Places (I finished it in a few hours) was the descriptions of what was happening in the other world and the characters.
This was a really great read, and I was completely glued to it. A lot is going on so I could see loads of different types of people picking it up and finding something they can relate to. I’m gonna recommend it to anyone who asks me about my favourite horror novels of 2020 without a second of thought.