An NPR Best Book of 2017“With the kind of grace not usually seen in accessible modern fiction, Egerton also invokes many other things with this central metaphor . . . Ollie’s voice is one of the most believable I’ve encountered this year, sustained by honesty, realism, and compassion. In his exile, Ollie has taken stock. His reckoning with the past creates the story’s exquisite tension and makes the final scene bloom with tenderness . . . The core of Hollow is anything but.” –NPR When Oliver Bonds, a revered religious studies professor at the University of Texas, loses his toddler son and undergoes intense legal scrutiny over his involvement, grief engulfs him completely. His life is upended; Oliver loses his wife, home, and faith. Three years after his son’s death, Oliver lives in a shack without electricity and frequents the soup kitchen where he used to volunteer. It’s only when befriended by Lyle, a con artist with a passion for theories of Hollow Earth, that Oliver begins to reengage with the world. Oliver too becomes convinced that the inside of the planet might contain a different realm. Desperate to find a place where he can escape his past, Oliver chases after the most unlikely of miracles. With unforgettable characters, wild imagery, and dark humor, Hollow explores the depths of doubt and hope, stretching past grief and into the space where we truly begin to heal.
An incredibly imaginative examination of grief, faith, and the relationship between the two. Egerton spins out the story of Oliver Bonds, a former religious studies professor who loses everything when his toddler son dies under mysterious circumstances and Bonds’ involvement is scrutinized. Three years later, Bonds is living alone in a remote shack and eating at the soup kitchen he once volunteered for. A grifter with a belief in ’hollow earth’ conspiracy theories is the unlikely catalyst for Bonds’ rebirth, as he latches onto a new kind of faith in his search for solace. An unexpectedly thrilling story of sadness and belief.
Oliver Bonds, the protagonist of Austin writer Owen Egerton’s third novel, Hollow, is a modern-day Job: a beloved religious studies professor at the University of Texas who, after his toddler son dies, hits bottom--and believes he might find some sort of solace in an undiscovered land at the center of the earth. There’s profound sorrow to be found here, but great wit too: ’I pictured my monthly paycheck stretched over our expenses like a queen sheet on a king-sized bed.’
Hollow grabs you, startlingly, with the poetry of its first sentence...and follows up with sardonic wit...and an existential quest...Hollow is off-beat, poignant, ultimately beguiling literary fiction.
I was blown away by Owen Egerton’s achingly beautiful, compulsively readable tale of a man who has lost his son, and himself. Hollow is filled to the brim with wonder and the sadness of being human, and I found myself laughing and tearing up on the same page. This is an adventure story with a tremendous heart. I couldn’t put it down.
Hollow is a work with an animate, vibrant, and awe-inducing core.
Surrounded by characters in various states of mourning, this narrative is a raw and beautiful exploration of grief and guilt.
Owen Egerton has always used his abundant comedic gifts to explore serious, complex subjects--e.g., human frailty, faith and morality, love and connection, the funhouse of contemporary American culture--and Hollow is the book in which it all comes together, the work of a copiously talented writer at the top of his game. Our protagonist, a contemporary Job buckling under the weight of profound suffering and loss--his own, and that of those who surround him, too--is primed for a hero’s journey that will get him right with the world again. But Hollow is a surprising book, one that eschews the expected, and his journey ends up being very different from the one he--or the reader--expects. There are no easy answers or tidy resolutions, but there’s hard-won grace and a hell of a lot of humor along the way.
In Hollow, Owen Egerton has fashioned a heartbreaking, tragic, yet funny novel about a man facing a tragedy that would be, in anyone else’s hands, almost impossible to read, but that, in his hands, is a story difficult to put down.
I’ve long been a fan of Egerton’s dark, probing, and often hilarious novels, but Hollow takes it to the next level. Egerton has crafted a beautifully strange modern take on the ’Book of Job’ populated with haunting and hilarious characters worthy of Vonnegut’s best. A meditation on grief and love, Hollow is simultaneously heart wrenching and laugh-out-loud funny.
A lively and beautifully crafted novel about the anguish of belief.
I love every word that Owen Egerton writes or utters and The Book of Harold bumps my admiration up to a new level. It takes a brave author to attempt satire these days. But it takes Owen Egerton to make it the wise, hilarious, finely-observed, and, ultimately, compassionate ring-tailed delight that The Book of Harold is.
Only Owen Egerton can create a new religion around a former computer salesman and make you want to up and take a pilgrimage to Austin with the rest of the Haroldians. Egerton has the gift of walking that fine line between hilarity and heart with grace. Follow.
An engaging exploration of everything ridiculous, horrible, and beautiful that humanity has ever been given or invented about religion, Egerton’s first novel is poignant and entertaining not just for those familiar with the New Testament but for anyone who is familiar with the American lifestyle.
The world ends in Austin, Texas, and a multitude of less cool venues, in Egerton’s seriocomic eschatological whimsy. A brainy, often riotous, ultimately moving Cat’s Cradle for our time peopled with reluctant seekers of spiritual nourishment who might have stepped from the pages of Flannery O’Connor.
Egerton (The Book of Harold) juggles farce, religious satire, philosophy, and a road trip as a slew of characters converge in a manic quest. A well-traveled hermit crab, 38 mistreated Jesus clones, sleep-deprived monks, and an oft-exchanged prosthetic leg figure into this rollicking madhouse of an apocalypse. Egerton is very funny.
People at the coffee shop were actually staring at me--I don’t think they fully believed that a book could make a person laugh that hard. Egerton has written an expansive novel that is generous enough to cover the end of the world, and the beginning, and a good number of the key points in between, and filled it with warmth, intelligence, wisdom, and humor--a personal and universal cosmology that made me laugh and think and feel and laugh some more. I think this is a future classic, and people will be reading this book decades from now. I know I will.
In this expansive, funny, touching epic--part travelogue, part quest narrative--Egerton offers up a Texan love letter generous enough to include even the nutria.