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The Loney


The Loney

Along the Lancashire coast, facing the unforgiving Irish Sea, is a stretch of desolate beach and farm land known to the Smith family as the Loney. It is the place they visit most Easters, to worship at the hundreds-year-old shrine and church and to pray for the healing of Andrew, mute and child-like even as a young man. But one year, the visit to the Loney takes a terrible and dark turn. The Smiths, along with a handful of others from their London church, are in mourning for the priest they recently lost and critical of the new priest who has accompanied them on this Easter journey. There are strange sounds, ugly discoveries in the woods, and the locals are aggressive in their disdain for the visitors. When Andrew, called Hanny, and his brother, the story’s narrator, meet a young pregnant girl staying close by, they are drawn into a dangerous and perhaps even evil affair.

From a distance of many years, and shaken by the discovery of the remains of a baby in the rubble of a house that had just tumbled down into the sea in Coldbarrow, part of the Loney, the narrator begins to recall the shadowy events of his last trip there in 1976. Reeling from the death of their parish priest, Father Wilfred, the Smiths, along with Mr. and Mrs. Belderboss, brother and sister-in-law to Father Wilfred, and a young engaged couple decide to return to the house called Moorings for the holiday. The trip is spearheaded by Mrs. Smith, called Mummer by her teenage son. Though the group has not been there for several years, she is adamant that they return and conduct the frankly medieval rituals in which Father Wilfred always led them.

"Atmospheric, harrowing, and suffused with mystery both metaphysical and psychological, THE LONEY is a riveting read."

Mrs. Smith’s own Catholicism is beyond devout; it is the most essential aspect of her identity and, she believes, the only path toward healing for Hanny. But the new priest, a young Irishman named Father Bernard McGill, is not up to her standards. Upon arrival at Moorings, the three families are confronted not just by the differences between Wilfred and Bernard, but by a growing unease with their environment. Local farmers seem at once menacing and all too familiar. The Smith boys find a gun hidden in the floorboards of their room. Mr. Smith discovers a sealed-up and secret room that may have housed sick children decades before. The Belderbosses confess their suspicion that Father Wilfred lost his faith and may have committed suicide (the truth being written in a mysterious diary).

All of this is upsetting enough for the Londoners as they cling to their strange and uncommon Catholic rites, hoping for peace and salvation for themselves and a miracle for Hanny. But to make tense matters even tenser, they find a sinister effigy in the woods, then the old church is vandalized, and the Smith brothers meet a teenage girl named Else at a house called Thessaly. Hanny is immediately smitten with her, but his brother takes the warnings to stay away from her and Thessaly seriously. When they do find themselves there again, Else is gone, but what she left behind opens the door to a violent and magical transformation.

Andrew Michael Hurley’s THE LONEY is a slow-burning and creepy novel. Reminiscent of classic gothic and horror tales, the emphasis is just as much on the setting as on the characters. Still, the characters are finely drawn and interesting. The narrator is satisfyingly unreliable but still compelling, Mummer verges on maniacal, yet Hurley handles her deftly, and the likable but somewhat enigmatic Father Bernard is a perfect contrast to the cruel and conservative Father Wilfred.

The resolution is never complete, and there are plenty of questions Hurley wisely allows readers to answer for themselves. The comparison between the superstitious Roman Catholicism and the pagan or occult practices is fascinating, especially as, despite the animosity between the two, they share some faith in magic and unseen powers. Atmospheric, harrowing, and suffused with mystery both metaphysical and psychological, THE LONEY is a riveting read.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on May 13, 2016

The Loney
by Andrew Michael Hurley

  • Publication Date: April 11, 2017
  • Genres: Fiction, Horror
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books
  • ISBN-10: 0544947193
  • ISBN-13: 9780544947191