The dark, silent, forbidding Ohio River flows like a line of moral demarcation in Hunt’s (The Exquisite, 2006, etc.) latest literary foray.
Hunt’s story arises from the rough edges of mid-19th-century civilization, before and after the great Civil War. It follows a young girl, Ginny, in a tragic odyssey from Indiana to Kentucky and home again. Full of pride and promises—"struck it rich as a king in trade and now was going to let the land care for him"—widower Linus Lancaster journeyed north to Indiana to marry a cousin he had long fancied. He assumed her widowed, with rumors of her husband dead in a far-off war. But the husband was only wounded, left with a wooden foot and a cane. The cousin had a daughter, Ginny, and as young girls do, Ginny flirted, and Linus’ attentions turned her way. There is a marriage, and the couple treks into Kentucky, where the boastful talk and sweet promises end, not with a fine home, all columns, gables and a 50-foot porch, but instead, at a rough cabin with extra rooms tacked on, a place where Ginny, only 14, must care for Linus’ daughters, 10 and 12. Opening with a prologue in the form of an extraordinarily beautiful meditation on loss, Hunt’s writing deepens into allegory, symbolism and metaphor, all while spinning forth a dark tale of abuse, incest and corruption reminiscent of Faulkner, a circuitous tale in which pigs continually darken the narrative, right to the point where the brutal Linus is killed with a "pig sticker," and Ginny becomes captive within a shadowy, ambiguous gothic-tinged maelstrom of revenge. Blood, race and slavery thread through the story, until Ginny returns across the river again to Indiana where she lives out her life as Scary Sue, working as a housekeeper for another widower, turning away more than once from love and reconciliation in pursuit of a redemption only she understands and desires.
Profoundly imaginative, strikingly original, deeply moving.