My Hungry Friend by Daniel Barnett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
My Hungry Friend is a tightly written story that deals with the horrors of Alzheimer's, both literal and metaphorical. Mike Roberts commits an atrocious act in the opening pages which doesn't exactly endear him to the reader (who kicks a homeless person's cup of change?!) but we soon learn the mindset behind what he was feeling that day, and why he felt the need to 'kick out'. Having previously read Daniel's Longreave, one of his strengths is creating multifaceted characters, and as the story evolves, so do the layers within Mike.
Trying to keep this as spoiler-free as possible, Mike struggles to look after his mother who suffers from Alzheimers. The concept of cracks opening in her mind, through which she becomes more and more lost, translate to Mike through his fears of hereditary Alzheimer's, but then those fears also become real as the homeless woman enacts her revenge on him. This reflection is well done, and even leads to some slight ambiguity towards the end with regards to Mike's lover.
If this was a straight literary book, there could have been more exploration of this; his mother wasn't used as I thought she might have been used, in fact it was all kept very real. But as a horror, it was sufficient: bring on the spiders!
Arachnophobes, beware! Spiders, spiders everywhere. Daniel's writing style ramps up the tension as the darkness begins to unveil itself, and as things not of this Earth begin to creep across Mike's skin. There are also a few moments of cringe-horror taken from reality, the kind of thing that must happen every day but we don't like to think about. And as horrific as some of these moments are, there are also some sweet moments; Mike's love for his mother and Cassie, (she leaves the room and suddenly the room returns to existence).
Longreave was a high bar, and more of an epic (having multiple POV) so My Hungry Friend feels smaller compared to that. Almost like an extended short story. But still, a very enjoyable read, and if Goodreads would allow another half-star it would get it from me.
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