Living in a world where your mainstay of communication are the trees in the Roundabend, a ghost that was your friend what was killed by her father, other inanimate objects that you hope will give you advice and an Android that becomes the center of your attention. Living in poverty, fearful of your actions and dealing with an abusive father and a negligent mother, what hope does a young child have? There are many issues brought to light in Rarity from the Hollow as we take the journey inside the Hollow and meet Lacy Dawn, her father Dwayne and mother Jenny. Having to hide material things that she wants in order to further her education, taking pride in being super smart, never late or absent from school and getting straight A’s, Lacy Dawn often hides away from her home, winds up sleeping on a boat owned by her Android friend DotCom and finds little solace at first even speaking to a father that is violent, abusive to not only her but her mother too. His weapon of choice a switch and no one at first would dare speak up to him or defy him when he does come home and he’s usually drunk. Lacy Dawn goes to meet her friends and hopes to escape her home life knowing that as an almost teen she can only do so much yet she is exceptional, kindhearted, astute and living in a community that is quite backward where the people there have little or no education, she is unique and seems to thrive in her own way. In order to cope she speaks to the trees, to Faith her loyal and deceased friend, DotCom who teaches her about the world and important subjects in school except he has a motive and that’s to take on a serious and important job: TO SAVE THE UNIVERSE and if she does he will fix her parents and make them normal and loving. But, can she take on such an important task? Lacy Dawn rationalizes her motives, her actions and is in constant fear of her father if she arrives home and he is out of sorts. He is a veteran suffering from PTSD and gets violent at times. But, her secret friend can cure him even though he is an Android programmed to not really deal with human emotions but at times you forget he’s a robot of some type and not a real person. Her father and mother are dysfunctional and her mother just wants to learn to drive but has to hide the fact from her father. Jenny, her mother is not educated and at times she appears but mentally she is not there even though physically she is present in the situation but disregards the realities of much of what she is going through and almost accepts her sad fate. DotCom comes to the rescue as long as she signs a contract to save the entire universe. Telling her what she has to do to prepare her parents to be reprogrammed and fixed she enlists the help of the dog, a great character, that she communicates with, Brownie to dig certain holes in the yard in order for wiring of some type to be placed there. But, Lacy Dawn is quick and smart has a clever way of hiding the holes. DotCom teaches her things she is not learning in school and using what he has taught her and talking to the forest trees and other inanimate objects, she helps her friends and fixes her family.
How do you live knowing that someone is using you as a hitting board on a daily basis? Why doesn’t her mother fight back? Not finishing high school, Jenny wants her GED but Dwayne cannot know that and the study materials are hidden as well as the fact that she wants to learn to drive. PTSD is serious and often veterans relive many of the nightmares that they endured when returning home. Not working, violent and arrogant he is one character that is not very likeable or even strong-minded as he gives into his own disabilities and has no desire at first to change or better himself.
DotCom is a major part of Lacy Dawn’s world and she even states she is going to marry him. But, when his superior learns about her, her resignation not to take on the job of saving the universe, DotCom’s wiring is disconnected and he is reprogrammed not to have any human feelings towards Lacy Dawn. But, little does anyone know that she is tough and when she decides to negotiate watch out and just say yes to whatever she demands. He’s an android sent to Earth over 2000 years ago and is supposed to get her to save the universe. Not human he understands what’s inside of him and programmed but not that she considers him “her man.” Meanwhile her parents are finally fixed and they become romantic at all times of the day when their neighbor Tom who sells, grows and supplies everyone with “Weed,” offers her father a job as a manager of one of his businesses.
Going back to talk to the trees in this magical forest, we learn that they only talk to kids who need help and advice and poor Lacy Dawn needs all the help she can get being in the fifth grade and 11 you wonder where she gets living in this far from enriched environment so much common sense and intelligence. While visiting DotCom we learn that his role is to create her genetic history for the next 1000 years in order for her to prepare to save the universe. Attaching a monitor or port to her she learns many lessons that her school does not teach. Brownie continues to dig a ditch to their house so that she can lay cables that will eventually as it has already fixed her parents but for how long? So, when her father starts bringing home lost of money from the lucrative working for Tom, they spend tons of time in a strange mall shopping. DotCom take Lacy Dawn to his home planet with her mother to meet the head of the mall, who never quite met anyone like Lacy Dawn in a place called Shptiludrp or shop till you drop, sounds great to me, which is run by a really powerful and mean man named Mr. Prump. Jenny gets her teeth repaired and looks great and she and her husband rekindle their love. In order for Lacy Dawn to accept her job to save the universe she enlists the help of her father to learn more about her mission but they that does not happen. Instead, they become great shoppers and their spending and shopping skills are first rate making them celebrities on Shptiludrp and everyone wants to know them and get their autograph. But, the shopping spree is quite unique as Mr. Plump explains that they need a high score at the end of the spree in order to negotiate the job that Lacy Dawn has to do to save the universe. As DotCom is not partially human and he is now her Advocate, he states the lengthy rules for shopping and what happens when Dwayne has to bargain with storeowners is hilarious and when Lacy Dawn realizes discrepancies it’s like a chapter out of a wild comedy sitcom. Deciding what to do with all of the merchandise they brought comes next as Lacy Dawn decides on a yard sale and that leads to her needed to learn more computer skills, creating a website, publicizing it and much more. With the help of her parents she just might succeed as Jenny now has her learner’s permit and things should get even more complicated now.
At times downtrodden, feeling that they are not equal to anyone else, yet although her parents are dysfunctional, not always on task nor savvy to more worldly ways you begin to wonder if they are just trying to cope with life and its difficulties, feel useful and needed and hopefully fulfill some of their own special dreams.
Next we learn the rationale behind perks for shopping, the rules of how you get more points and the next thing we know is that they are totally rich. But, where to hide the money, what about the IRS and taxes and how is all of this money affecting their family, their loyalties and Lacy Dawn’s relationship with DotCom? Dwayne’s bookkeeping skills are quite unique. Lacy Dawn’s computer and website skills are creative, her mother at times seems strong while at other times is engrossed in her shopping and other areas. DotCom has become money oriented and some of his android qualities seem to be diminishing.
The story continues as they form a team consisting of her parents, DotCom, Tom and herself and at times we hear from Faith who feels left out since she is no longer alive but has her own opinion about what is happening. Dealing with Mr. Plump and his double and learning the rules about high and low scoring items when shopping gives a whole new meaning to creating a different hierarchy for people or standards for them to live by. The author delves into why Earth was at first an undeveloped planet and how it later becomes the prime place for everyone to live but just how and if she saves the universe is quite unique and you definitely won’t figure it out. But, first realize that she starts the novel by showing how she can fix some of the students in her school who have problems wanting to fix her parents and herself but loses or has no idea of how and the final ending will leave you wondering just where the world is going, who will live there, what places are habitable and who or what will live there and rule.
The ending creates much discussion as the team along with Mr.Prump and his brother Mr. Rump have to coordinate with the rest to decide where the living things that have invaded Shptiludrp and find somewhere they can all survive, enough ways to transport them and hopefully save the universe but first they deal with Welfare, food stamps, courts and many other bureaucratic groups that each one has to find a way override their decisions and come out on top. Jenny becomes quite adept at dealing with Welfare and caseworkers, while Dwayne comes through at times in a pinch along with Tom. But, who saves the Universe and will the plan work? The only way you will find out is to go deep inside the Hollow, join the team of colorful, interesting and downtrodden characters and find out if a dysfunctional, poverty stricken, uneducated, group of mismatched adults, one android and one very bright teen can save the world. The author gives us much pause for thought as we read this uniquely crafted story about some real life situations handled in very unorthodox ways filled with humor, sarcasm, heartfelt situations and fun.
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ magazine