This book review originally appeared in Lunchbox Diaries on June 26, 2016.
Author: Thomas Olde Heuvelt
The original version of “Hex" is very Dutch, according to author Thomas Olde Heuvelt. It speaks to sentiments and culture that he felt would not translate as well to English speaking audiences. In that way, the English version of Hex is more like a Hex 2.0. This particular edition of the book draws upon the Pennsylvania Dutch traditions of hexing and witches, the northeastern region’s history with the witch trials, and the toxic xenophobia that permeates American culture even today.
Like any good horror novel, the real horror is not the immortal witch who haunts the town of Black Springs and threatens to kill them all for revenge, it is the culture and people in the town of Black Springs itself. It is the ruling Council that forces everyone to remain in the town and to never speak of the town’s secret that has caused all the heartache and problems throughout Black Springs’ strange history. What starts as a chilling ghost story progresses into an intelligent discussion about the darkness in the human heart, as well as the evil that individuals will visit upon each other.
I had an upbringing steeped in Appalachian cultural ideas about magic, so I am no stranger to the concept of hexes as presented in the novel. Olde Heuvelt comes from a country where the tradition is even older than it is in America, but he did his research about our country and our various mythos. A hex remains until the blood debt or other requirement is met, which had already been done in the story which was why the witch was a problem. The idea of a hex continuing like a Japanese grudge, growing more in anger and power, was immediately suspect but I couldn’t stop reading because I was intrigued by the concept. The author’s writing is both tightly woven and intelligent in its execution. It’s been some time since I’ve torn through over 400 pages in a day.
This is a novel that will make you feel emotions and feel connected to the terrible events as they unfold. In some ways, Hex is a heavy read for summer, but it should definitely be on your summer reading list. This is a book worth devouring and discussing. With the tragedies that have defined this summer so far, I feel that Hex points out the societal problems that led to them. The question is – we will we stop it or will our entire nation become just another Black Springs?
This review was written by Team Member Frances Mihulec. Learn more about Frances and other team members here.