Once again plumbing the depths of folklore, Bill Hussey crafts another winner with “The Absence”. As with “Through A Glass Darkly,” Hussey's prose is lyrical and flowing, but “The Absence” moves at a quicker pace than its predecessor. It's story doesn't lose any strength, however, and in many ways is more poignant: it's hard to pin down the ultimate villain. That's not to say there's no resolution, but rather to highlight one of its key themes: there's darkness in everyone, and though we fight it as best we can, often it consumes us in the end.
Seven months ago, the Nightingale family suffered the worst tragedy a family can endure: the loss of a beloved parent, Janet Nightingale – mother and wife. Worse yet, it happened in a car accident in which the eldest son Joe was driving. Joe believes he's responsible for his mother's death, but he carries his burden silently, alone.
Richard Nightingale grieves for the loss of his wife, but really – he lost Janet long ago. An alcoholic carrying on a four year affair, Richard lost Janet to something he cannot define or understand, and worst of all, he can never tell Joe or his youngest son Bobby. To them, he's an uncaring, alcoholic father who's been cheating on their mother. Bobby struggles with strange desires he can't accept, and like his brother and father, they limp along on their separate, solitary paths.
They're disconnected, dysfunctional, and falling away from each other: the perfect targets for evil. There's a secret buried in Janet's past, and it comes for them when they're willed a mill house and summer home from an unknown, distant relative. For Richard, it's a last chance to try and save his family. They pack up and travel to the countryside to spend the summer at Daecher's Mill restoring the house, as well as themselves. However, something ancient and malevolent awaits them in the mill's wet shadows. It knows their secrets and savors their fears. Before the end, it will show them their worst nightmares come true.
“The Absence” brims with raw, unbridled emotion. As in his first novel, Hussy's narrative is rich, vivid, and engaging. The domestic strife of the Nightingales is real and troubling, and when mixed with Hussey's keen knowledge of myth and folklore, an engrossing story is born. There is hope here, but also the foreboding sense that a dark destiny awaits the Nightingales, one they can't escape without dread sacrifice. The only question is: who will pay?