Author: Laura McHugh
Genre: Modern Fiction/Suspense
Type: e-book Advanced Reading Copy
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication Date: March 11, 2014
First Line: "That Cheri Stoddard was found at all was the thing that set people on edge, even more so than the condition of her body."
Book Description from GoodReads: For fans of Gillian Flynn and Daniel Woodrell, a dark, gripping debut novel of literary suspense about two mysterious disappearances, a generation apart, and the meaning of family-the sacrifices we make, the secrets we keep, and the lengths we will go to protect the ones we love.
The Dane family's roots tangle deep in the Ozark Mountain town of Henbane, but that doesn't keep sixteen-year-old Lucy Dane from being treated like an outsider. Folks still whisper about her mother, a bewitching young stranger who inspired local myths when she vanished years ago. When one of Lucy's few friends, slow-minded Cheri, is found murdered, Lucy feels haunted by the two lost girls-the mother she never knew and the friend she couldn't protect. Everything changes when Lucy stumbles across Cheri's necklace in an abandoned trailer and finds herself drawn into a search for answers. What Lucy discovers makes it impossible to ignore the suspicion cast on her own kin. More alarming, she suspects Cheri's death could be linked to her mother's disappearance, and the connection between the two puts Lucy at risk of losing everything. In a place where the bonds of blood weigh heavy, Lucy must decide where her allegiances lie.
Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
My Review: There are a few elements which truly make a suspense read stand out for me. The setting, well developed characters and that sinister/edge of your seat feel. This is the debut novel for Laura McHugh and, well, two outta three ain't bad.
The word that comes to mind when I think of the overall story is gritty. This may not be a book for the squeamish because it deals with a lot of heavy issues (sexual exploitation, kidnapping, abuse) and McHugh doesn't hold back any punches. The Weight of Blood is haunting, it made me very uncomfortable and shocked at times. The issues it deals with are horrifying and yet, sadly, I could picture it happening.
My favourite part of this book was the description of the Ozarks and the very small town where the story takes place. The small town of Henbane, set in the Kentucky Ozarks, sets the stage for this very atmospheric novel. McHugh clearly depicts life in a very small town where life can be stifling (from not only the heat but from constantly having your neighbours up in your business). It's a place where the term 'outsiders' could mean anyone whose family hasn't lived there for several generations.
The Ozarks is a very unique region and Lucy's small town of Henbane is clearly rife with gossip about why and how Lila and Cheri disappeared. Personally, I loved getting a bird's eye view of the unique culture, customs and beliefs of this area. That said, there did seem to be every small town southern stereotype thrown in to describe Henbane.
The weakness in this book, for me, was with the character development and my feelings for the characters which were all over the board. Some characters were well developed (Lila, Crete) but others like Carl seemed to be too weak and almost caricatures. The fact that dual narration was used via Lucy and Lila didn't help matters either. While it definitely helped keep the pace of the book high, at times, it also made it a little confusing. It's a little thing but I wish that Lucy and Lila didn't have such similar names because there were a couple of times when I got them mixed up at the beginning of a new narration.
I knew that Lucy, Lila and Cheri were inextricably linked early on in the book but I loved having to learn about why and how they were linked as I read the book. There is a true art in being able to give the reader a look into the future of the story but still make them want to find out why.
I think that this book could make a great Book Club pick. There's a lot of juicy stuff you could pick apart and argue for and against. The title, 'Weight of Blood' made me stop and think because it's a wonderful apt description of this book. How much weight do we give our blood connections? Do we have to? Are we connected forever despite other factors that may not be forgivable?
“You grow up feeling the weight of blood, of family. There’s no forsaking kin. But you can’t help when kin forsakes you or when strangers come to be family.”
I enjoyed reading this book. It kept me on the edge of my seat and even though some of the issues that were dealt with made me uncomfortable, I wouldn't say that was a bad thing either. I will admit that I wish there was a bit more resolution regarding one issue that is discussed throughout the majority of the book. As a reader this kind of thing frustrates me. I also would have loved to have one big twist at the end because I guessed who the 'bad guy' was early on and that's not as satisfying as predicting one outcome and the author flipping things and me be shocked with a great twist.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. It is well written and definitely a suspenseful novel and while I do feel there is room for improvement I'm quite impressed with this debut novel and look forward to her future work.
My Rating: 3.5/5 stars