Set in the world of his most beloved novel The Last Child (“A magnificent creation” The Washington Post), John Hart delivers a stunning vision of a secret world, rarely seen.
It’s been ten years since the events that changed Johnny Merrimon’s life and rocked his hometown to the core. Since then, Johnny has fought to maintain his privacy, but books have been written of his exploits; he has fans, groupies. Living alone in the wilderness beyond town, Johnny’s only connection to normal life is his old friend, Jack. They’re not boys anymore, but the bonds remain. What they shared. What they lost.
But Jack sees danger in the wild places Johnny calls home; he senses darkness and hunger, an intractable intent. Johnny will discuss none of it, but there are the things he knows, the things he can do. A lesser friend might accept such abilities as a gift, but Jack has felt what moves in the swamp: the cold of it, the unspeakable fear.
Building on the world first seen in The Last Child, The Hush is more than an exploration of friendship, persistence and forgotten power. It takes the reader to unexpected places, and reminds us all why John Hart is the author of five consecutive New York Times bestsellers.
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|Edition description:||Signed Edition|
|Product dimensions:||6.20(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.60(d)|
About the Author
JOHN HART is the author of five New York Times bestsellers, The King of Lies, Down River, The Last Child, Iron House, and Redemption Road. The only author in history to win the Edgar Award for Best Novel consecutively, John has also won the Barry Award, the Southern Independent Bookseller’s Award for Fiction, the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award, and the North Carolina Award for Literature. His novels have been translated into thirty languages and can be found in more than seventy countries.
Read an Excerpt
Johnny woke in the crook of a tree under a diamond-studded sky. The hammock around him was worn nylon, and the great oak a hundred feet tall. Even at sixty feet, its trunk was thicker than Johnny, its branches bent but strong. Johnny knew every one of those branches by feel: the worn spots from his feet and hands, the way they leaned out from the trunk and split like fingers. He could climb the tree in total blackness, find his way past the hammock to smaller branches that bent beneath his weight. From there he could see the moon and the forest, the swamp that rolled off to the south. This was his place — six thousand acres — and he knew every stream and hill, every dark pool and secret glade.
He didn't always sleep in the tree. There was a cabin, but it felt heavy at times. He'd built it himself, so it wasn't the shape or size of it that pushed him, like a wind, to the ancient tree on its splintered hill. It wasn't the dreams or memories or any dark thing others might suspect. Johnny came for the views, and for the way they connected him to the land he owned. The tree grew from a knob of stone and soil that rose from the swamp to join a span of similar hills that cut a line between the wetlands and the thin-soiled higher ground that notched into the far, north corner of Raven County. From the hammock's crook he could see beyond the swamp and across the river. Climb another thirty feet, and he could see a glint of light that was the tallest building in town. That was eighteen miles in a straight line, thirty-seven if you had to drive. Roads this far north were twisted and crumbled, and that was fine with Johnny. He didn't care for people on his land, and had fired once on hunters too antagonistic to leave when asked politely. He didn't plan to hit them — they'd be dead if he had — but black bear had a special place in Johnny's heart, and two mothers had been killed with cubs still in the den. Because of that, he marked the borders and tracked hunters, in particular, with sleepless determination. Police, of course, didn't see it his way, and neither did the courts. After the shooting, there'd been a few months in jail and a firestorm of media. That was because reporters never forgot, and to most he was still the same dark-eyed child they'd made famous ten years earlier.
But Johnny didn't care if people thought him dangerous or strange. It hurt to see the worry on his parents' faces, of course. They wanted him in the city and between four walls, but deep down they understood how life had lifted him from the dark pages of his youth and brought him to this special place. And it was special. He could taste it on the breeze, see it in a sky so heavy with stars, it made his eyes water to look up and marvel at the relentless depth of it. Beneath all that pure, white light was a purple forest that moved with a rhythm as familiar, now, as the beat of Johnny's heart.
Leaving the hammock, he let his hands and feet find their way to the smallest branches that would still take his weight. The trunk was thin so high, the horizon a purple line darker than the rest. He studied the canopy, then moved up the tree until the trunk was small enough to cup with both hands, and then with only one. It was dangerous to climb so high, but Johnny had a reason.
He was looking for fire.
* * *
There'd been fires in the wood before: campfires and lightning strikes; a burn, once, from a hunter's dropped cigarette. Fires like this were different because Johnny, the next day, couldn't find a trace of them, not a charred twig or a burnt blade.
And he'd looked hard.
The first time it happened was just like this: a cloudless sky and a whisker of smoke. He'd gone higher for a better look and seen a glimmer halfway up a distant hill that was two down in the line of peaks that ran north and west. Three sides of that hill sloped gently beneath a layer of pine and scrub; the side facing Johnny was a slab of weathered stone. Near its base, boulders littered an area the size of a city block, and from that ruin the rest of it rose: sheer walls and slopes of scree, then more piled stone and knuckles of trees before the final wall of broken granite pushed free. That's where the fires were, somewhere on that weather-beaten face.
In three years he'd seen the fire eleven different times. This was the twelfth, and Johnny took his time watching it. Paths ran between the boulders and up the shattered face, but the paths crossed and doubled back and petered out. It was easy to get turned around, so he gauged angles and approaches. He pictured the route he would take, and when he left the tree, he did it quick and sure, dropping the last eight feet and rising at the run. He was barefoot in cutoff jeans and no shirt, but his soles were hard as leather and his eyes sharp from years in dark woods. And this night wasn't close to dark. Stars speckled the sky, and from beyond the river a half-moon rose. Even then, most would find it hard to move at such speed, but when Johnny ran, it was for real.
And he was running hard.
A footpath took him to the river, and when the water spread, he followed a ridge that carried him to the second hill and up it in a hard, fast climb. At the top he paused, looking for smoke. The wind was right, and for a moment he thought he was too late, that the fire was dead and whoever built it, gone. It had happened before — a sudden void of scent — and when it did happen, he wanted to throw caution to the wind and run blind, if that's what it took. The fire was a riddle, its builder a ghost. But life in the forest taught lessons beyond readiness and speed. Patience had its place, as did stealth and simple faith, and Johnny trusted his senses.
The fire builder was no ghost.
* * *
The smoke came again in the final valley, a downdraft that tasted of wood ash and charred resin. Creeping to the edge of the trees, Johnny studied the open ground and boulders tumbled like flung houses against the root of the hill. Paths ran between them, and in places they touched to form cathedral vaults. Beyond the boulders, the trails were narrow and twisted, and Johnny let his eyes move up and down the dark lines they cut through trees and scree and along the foot of the lower face. Other trails showed higher up, but they were faint in the moonlight, and not so much paths as ledges. Johnny looked for fire on the face, but couldn't find it.
Halfway up, he thought, nearer the east side than the west.
Problem was, the fire seemed to move. Last month it was higher up and farther west; the one before that, dead center above a rockslide shaped like an inverted V.
Crossing a final stretch of broken ground, Johnny took the main draw through the boulders. Side trails split off three times before stone met above his head, and the path narrowed. When it got tight, Johnny angled his shoulders and trailed fingers over the walls, feeling a vellum of fur and fine hairs left over the years by bear, coyote, and deer. Once around a final bend, the stone rose up to form a secret place that might have been there, unchanged, since the dawn of man. Johnny peered up a narrow chimney and saw a slash of pale stars. After that, he followed the right-hand trail, twisting up the slope as boulders dropped away. He was on a ridgeline beneath a final belt of woods. Still no sign of fire.
"All right, then."
He worked through the trees to a slope of scree at the base of the cliff. Rock shifted as he climbed, and twice he fell. After ten minutes he peered down, dizzy from a sense of sudden wrongness. There was too much space beneath him, too much purple stone and empty air. Looking again, he saw a notch in the tree line that should be beneath him, but had somehow shifted left. It felt as if he'd gone blank and climbed a hundred yards without knowing it. Leaning out, he tried to determine exactly where he was. Higher than he should be, and farther right.
No problem, he thought.
But that was not true. The slope was too steep, the scree as slippery as scales piled one atop the other. A hundred feet up was a stand of scrub oaks and pine. Beyond that, a footpath followed the base of the lower cliff and led to a series of ledges that twisted upward to the final cliff beyond. Johnny was too high and too far right, pinned on a section of slope he avoided exactly because it was so dangerous. He told himself it was a simple mistake, that he'd rushed the climb, that things looked different in the false light of 4 A.M. He said it twice, but didn't believe it. He'd been up the face seven times with no problem.
Moving with care, Johnny tried to work his way off the pitch. He looked for the largest stones, the most stable holds. Twelve feet across, his foot slipped, and twenty feet of stone disappeared beneath him. Johnny felt it go, then was gone, too, the sound like a freight train as he saw the fall in his mind: hundreds of feet, near vertical, then trees and boulders, an avalanche of scree heavy enough to bury him alive.
But Johnny didn't die.
Fifty feet down, he slammed to a stop, bruised and bloodied and half buried. It took time to think through the hurt and figure out if the chance yet remained to die. The hill above was swept clean. Around him, loose stone mounded against a two-foot lip of solid rock, beneath which was a drop long and steep enough to kill most any man alive. Johnny looked left and right, and that's how close it was — a foot or so, or maybe inches.
* * *
Dawn was a blush in the trees by the time Johnny limped to the small, square cabin and let himself inside. His bed took up space near the stone fireplace, and he fell into it, hurting. When he woke, it was three hours later. After dropping his clothes in a corner, he went to the creek to wash off dust and blood. He bandaged the worst of the cuts, then pulled on jeans, boots, and a shirt. At the door, he checked his face in a four-inch mirror. The eyes that stared back were as still as glass, and so unflinching that few people looked into them for very long. At twenty-three, Johnny didn't smile without reason or waste time on people he found insincere. How often could he hear the same questions?
How are you, son?
Are you holding up okay?
For ten years he'd endured one version or another of the same pointless phrase, knowing, as he did, that people sought the darker currents that ran beneath.
What did you see in those terrible places?
How messed up are you, really?
Those were the people who risked the darkness of Johnny's eyes, those who asked the questions and looked deep, hoping for a glimpse of the boy he'd been, the glimmer of wildness and war paint and fire.
* * *
Thirty minutes later, Johnny left the cabin, pushing south into the swamp, and from there across tendons of dry ground until he reached the ruins of a settlement once owned by freed slaves and their descendants. Most of the structures were rotted and fallen, but a few buildings still stood. When people asked about Hush Arbor, this was the place they meant: the cemetery, the old houses, the hanging tree. Few understood how large it really was.
Unlocking one of the sheds, Johnny backed out a truck that was white and dented and a half century old. From there, it was two miles to a metal gate. Once through it, he merged onto a state road and turned up the radio, scrolling past gospel and talk radio and local sports. Near the bottom of the dial he found the classical station out of Davidson College, and listened to that as hills spread out and the city rose. Johnny knew every street corner and neighborhood, every monument and cobbled drive and twist of asphalt. In three hundred years, Raven County had seen its share of loss and conflict. Sons had gone to war, and died. There'd been riots, depression; parts of the city had burned.
Johnny drove past the courthouse and stopped at a light, watching how people held hands and laughed and admired their reflections in the burnished glass. A block later he angled to the curb where the old hardware store touched the sidewalk and women gathered to look at potted plants and tomatoes and wooden trays stacked with beans and corn and peaches. Nobody noticed Johnny until he stepped from the truck; and when it started, it started small. A young woman blinked, and another one noticed. By the time Johnny edged past, four of them were staring. Maybe it was the way he looked, or his history with the town. Whatever the case, Johnny kept to himself as he pushed through the door and made eye contact with the old man behind the glass-topped counter at the rear of the store.
"Johnny Merrimon. Good morning to you."
"Sorry about the welcoming committee." Daniel dipped his head at the front window. "But two of them are pretty enough, and about your age. Maybe you shouldn't rush past so quick and determined."
Johnny nodded, but didn't respond. It wasn't that he didn't like a pretty girl — he did — but Johnny would never leave Hush Arbor, and few women were interested in life without power or phone or running water. Daniel didn't seem to know or care. He waved at the ladies beyond the glass, then put his eighty-watt smile back on Johnny. "So, young Mr. Merrimon. What can I do for you this fine day?"
"Just the ammunition."
"Got a new four-wheeler out back. I can offer a good deal."
"All I need are the cartridges."
"Fair enough. I like a man who knows his own mind." The old man unlocked the counter and removed a twenty-count box of .270 Winchester. "Twelve gauge, too?"
"Same as always."
"Bird shot, then. Number seven."
Daniel put two boxes on the glass, and a tuft of white hair rose at the crown of his head. "What else?"
"That'll do it."
Johnny paid the exact amount from long habit, and had both boxes in his hand before Daniel spoke again. "Your mother asks about you, you know." Johnny stopped, half turned. "She knows you come here, and that it's a monthly thing. Now, I know it's not my business —"
Daniel held up both hands, his head moving side to side. "I know that, son, and I'm not the kind to interfere — I hope you can accept that about me — but she comes here asking about you, and damn it ..." The old man broke off, struggling. "You should really call your mother."
"Did she ask you to tell me that?"
"No, she didn't. But I've known you since you were six, and you've never been the selfish kind of boy."
Johnny put the boxes down. He didn't mean to sound angry, but did. "We have a good thing here, Daniel. Don't you think?"
"Yes, but —"
"Most of what I spend in town I spend in your store. It's not much, I know, just cartridges and salt, fishing gear and tools. I come here because you're local and you're nice, and because I enjoy it. I really do. We smile and talk rifles. You ask what I do up in all that wilderness, and I give you the best answers I can. A joke between us is not a rare thing, either."
"Johnny, listen —"
"I don't come here for advice about girls or my mother." It was the hardest voice, the darkest eyes. It wasn't fair to unload on Daniel, but Johnny lacked the will to walk it back. "Look, I'll see you next month, okay?"
"Sure, Johnny." The old man nodded, but kept his eyes down and his mouth bent. "Next month."
Johnny pushed his way from the store, not looking at the women still gathered on the sidewalk. He settled into the truck, closed his eyes, and wrapped his fingers around the wheel.
He was forgetting; he could feel it. Forgetting how to relate, to be a part of ... this.
Johnny opened his eyes and looked at the old man and his store, at the stretch of sidewalk and traffic, the pretty girls who still looked his way and giggled and whispered and stared. One of them was Daniel's granddaughter, who was twenty-two and pretty as a picture. The old man had tried to set them up once, six months ago.
Johnny had forgotten that, too.
* * *
So Johnny made a choice, and it wasn't an easy one. In spite of what the shopkeeper said, selfishness had nothing to do with Johnny's long absences from his mother's side. When she looked at her son's face, she saw the daughter, killed young, and the husband who'd died trying to save her. Johnny knew that truth because he faced it every time he chose to confront a mirror.
This is how my father stood.
This is how my sister would appear.
That all made sense, but Johnny was forgetting, too — not just how to live a normal life, but also the sound of Alyssa's voice, the secret looks only a twin could understand. The past walked beside him as a shadow might, and every day that shadow stretched and thinned, the memories of childhood and family and how good it all had been. Johnny feared that when enough days had passed, the shadow would fade and pale until it was simply gone. Johnny dreaded that day more than anything else, so in the end, he did what the old man said.
Excerpted from "The Hush"
Copyright © 2018 John Hart.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Well done young man. You do history justice
Not what I expected, but the book was still good.
John Hart has set a high bar with “The Hush,” an intense journey through one man’s private hell. From the first page when we are re-acquainted with tree-perching Johnny Merrimon, who we first met in “The Last Child,” readers are in for a treat that involves past ghosts, present demons and future mysteries. Johnny and his childhood friend Jack have secrets that others are dying to know. Some would give anything, including sex, to learn the secrets surrounding Johnny’s heroic efforts 10 years earlier. Others are dying in the swamps and forest that Johnny now calls home. And Jack, well, he’s got in the middle between trying to protect his friend and save his own life. To say more about the plot would be cruel to the readers. They need to read – and feel – the power of the Hush Arbor. In my opinion, this is the author’s best novel. Hart writes with a style that draws readers into the heart of his story and characters. This author never disappoints with his superb storytelling!
4.5 Stars! Oh the "power" of THE HUSH! JOHN HART takes us on an unexpected eerie and magical journey in this follow up novel to THE CHILD where we once again meet up with best buddies Johnny Merrimon and Jack Cross. All grown up now....both in their 20's, Jack with a law degree and Johnny....well, he hides out from his dark and tragic past on his beloved ancestral six thousand acres in the remote Hush Arbor, North Carolina....land with secrets he intends to keep no matter the cost....no matter who else stakes a claim. THE HUSH is filled with misty swampland and dangerous forests where many go in but do not come out....where you THINK you know the way....where the mysterious happens causing haunted dreams from tortured spirits of long ago. LOVE the creepy place where John Hart takes us on this one....how we travel the land in the midst of a presence who wants us gone....in search of truth. "There is such magic in the world."
Okay, who really wrote this? If Mr Hart did, perhaps he needs a vacation!!! I have read everything he has written and this is so beneath his talent. !!Sorry can't recommend.
I loved the first book and was excited to read the second book. It was so different from the first. John hart is amazing writer and thats the only reason I got as far in the book as I did. This is not giving any of the plot away but Johnny is beaten and heals within 5 days. Beaten with a crushed eye socket and broken bones. If you like supernatural and john hart you will love this book. If you expected a sequel and a great mystery you will be very disappointed like I was. Could not even finish the book!
Dark, haunting, and unpredictable! The Hush takes us back to into the lives of Johnny Merrimon and Jack Cross 10 years after we first met them in The Last Child as they face a journey of survival against resentment, jealousy, legal woes, the wilderness, and the unsettled skeletons and secrets of the past. The writing is gloomy and exceptional descriptive. The characters are steadfast, scarred, and lonely. And the plot, which seems to be heading towards a legal thriller in the first half of the novel quickly veers into a story of tortured spirits, dark magic, and supernatural phenomenon. I have to say that die-hard fans of John Hart may be a little disappointed in this latest outing which doesn’t leave you on the edge-of-your-seat or delve into the complex nature of the human psyche as we’ve come to associate with his novels. There’s no question that Hart is an incredibly evocative writer, and although The Hush really didn’t work for me if you can approach it with an open mind and enjoy stories steeped in magical realism you may just love it.
I love John Hart and now wish I'd read The Last Child before I read this one. I was intrigued from the start as Johnny and Jack have such an interesting friendship and clearly ties that bind them because of their past. But I struggled a little as the novel wore on as I just wanted to know the secrets of the area and what could cause such terror and disbelief in those that encountered the swamp. But Hart is such a talented writer that I knew I would persevere and be rewarded in the end. And it didn't disappoint! Although it's over 400 pages, it's worth the read as it blends the supernatural, the unforgiving nature of the wild, and very human but fallible characters in their quest for the truth.
I appreciated the magical world created by John Hart. I've never read a John Hart novel before and noticed the excitement that comes from his fans when a new one comes out. The magical world he created in this book is extraordinary and it pulls you in. It was interesting to learn about the life of solitude cultivated by Johnny Merrimon. You attempt to learn about the present story and crave the past because it is what has built the main character. The book delves into the past and present in a unique way and you learn about the cultivated bond between our main character and his old friend Jack. The world that surrounds Johnny is magical beyond belief and you definitely didn't want this story to end. I appreciated the exploration of friendship, being taken into a world that my own mind could have never thought of, and the connection between a person's past and present, and what it may bring to their future. Thank you Netgalley & St. Martin's Press for an advanced e-copy in exchange for an honest review.
Gripping! I couldn't put this one down. John Hart brings back the Johnny and Jack from The Lost Child with a supernatural twist tied to the land and racial history. What is going on in Hush Arbor? Why do people disappear there? What evil lurks in the swamp? The tension builds gradually throughout the book and sucks you into the lives of Johnny and Jack. I tried to make this book last longer - I really did - but I couldn't help turning page after page until I found out what was happening. John Hart is such an excellent writer. I've read all his novels and every one was well written. 5 stars for this one - I loved it! Thanks so much to John Hart and St. Martin's Press through Netgalley for an advance copy.
A big departure for John Hart with this second book about Johnny and Jack set ten years after the events in The Last Child--he has written this one with a big helping of magical-realism. Johnny prefers to live alone in a cabin in the Hush. There's some sort of magic here...or is it evil? Grown men go in and never come out, or if they do, they may have lost their sanity.
Two best friends since childhood now live starkly different adult lives: one beginning his first year as an attorney in a top-notch law firm, the other living hermit-like in a huge piece of contested land. The land, called The Hush, was given to Johnny’s family before the Revolution, his ancestor in turn deeded acres of it to a freed slave until the last male descendant died and then it would revert back to the original family. It has reverted back, although a female descendant of the freed slave is appealing. The book starts out seeming like a legal contest between families. Are they fighting about a piece of Eden or about potential vast wealth? Slowly the tale becomes twitchy and mysterious. There’s more going on in that swamp than we could imagine. This is a great story about things that go bump in the night, rippling through our unconscious and stirring our dreams. I received my copy from the publisher through NetGalley.
The Hush by John Hart is a highly recommended thriller. It is also a sequel to 2009's The Last Child, although it can be read as a stand-alone novel. Johnny Merrimon and Jack Cross are back. It's been ten years since the events from The Last Child (Johnny became a national celebrity after capturing the man responsible for murdering his sister Alyssa and their father). Johnny, now 23, is living a solitary life on the six thousand acres called Hush Arbor in North Carolina. He struggles to keep his life private, despite the fact that a book has been written about what happened when he was thirteen. Jack is now an attorney and has returned to Raven County to practice law. He and Johnny still have an unbreakable bond and connection to each other. Johnny has been fighting a legal battle to keep the land that he inherited five years ago. Cree Freemantle, a young woman who also has a claim to the land, is challenging him legally for ownership of the property. Johnny won the initial suit, but the case has now reached the appellate court. Johnny is land rich, but cash poor and he needs Jack to help him fight the legal battle for the property. Jack wants to help Johnny, and tries to arrange a more qualified attorney on a pro bono basis to handle the appeal. But he also senses an unseen menace and feels like there is something dark and sinister living in Hush Arbor. He also questions Johnny's ability to heal so quickly. There is no doubt that Hart has written a very compelling novel in The Hush. The quality of the writing is excellent. The setting is described picture-perfect, creating an atmospheric setting for what soon heads down the path of magic realism and a supernatural presence. It does start out rather slow, but soon events take off, violently. There is some shifting back and forth in time in the narrative as characters connect to others who lived in the past. "There is no normal in the Hush. There is only story and magic." I haven't read The Last Child, although I'd like to after reading The Hush. While it is true that this novel can be enjoyed without reading the previous novel, in some ways I feel like I would have enjoyed The Last Child more than The Hush. Once the novel headed down the magic supernatural dark forces path along with the tie-in to events that happened in the 1850's, I began to question why I was reading it. Still, it is a satisfying story and well written, which matters a great deal to me. I didn't particularly like the ending, but it does bring the story to a conclusion. 3.5 rounded up Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of St. Martin's Press.