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Overcoming Guilt in the Face of a Mystery

A review of Kelly J. Ford’s The Hunt.

The Hunt by Kelly J. Ford offers a poignant illustration of loss and grief as it expands and contracts over time within a world not willing to allow its victims to forget. Set within modern Presley, Arkansas, The Hunt follows Nell Holcomb’s experiences as she relives her brother’s death each Easter through Presley’s annual Hunt for the Golden Egg. For 17 years, one of Presley’s citizens is murdered by a presumed serial killer deemed “the Hunter,” preying on random victims including its first—Garrett Holcomb. Left to care for Garrett’s now-teen son Elijah, Nell is forced to navigate her own yearly emotions along with newly pressing questions from Elijah about his father’s death. As the time for the Hunt draws near, she must face her own guilt-ridden past while preparing to face the Hunter once again.

Pieced together through shared Google docs and vague recountings from characters, The Hunt paints a rough image of the supposed Hunter haunting Presley; however, readers are left uncertain of if the serial killer truly plagues the beloved Hunt or if the delusions of anti-Hunters are fueling a nonexistent flame for a nasty string of tragic coincidences. The mystery leaves readers in great suspense, keeping an eye on every character no matter how minute because of the intense suspicion Ford creates.

Along with this puzzle, readers are also invited to navigate the realm of a lost young woman who truly believes that her brother was a victim of the Hunter. Nell isn’t presented as the most loveable or appealing character, though this is what makes her so enamoring. If anything, her blunt humanity practically brings her to life straight from the pages and illustrates the multifaceted experience of being alive. Readers are compelled to be averse to her shortcomings and mistakes while admiring her good nature.

There are a few places where Ford fumbles the plot, especially with the conflicting conclusion of the Hunter’s existence and the final chapter of the novel. She compensates, though, with in-depth explorations of her characters as well as incredible narration around an extraordinary event.

The Hunt is out now and is one of our Summer Reading Picks.

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