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The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh

The Weight of Blood

by Laura McHugh

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4038426,569 (3.82)25
  1. 00
    Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: Questions of family loyalty trouble resourceful teen girls in these stark and menacing novels of hardscrabble life in the Ozark hills. Both fast-paced literary thrillers combine a strong sense of place with haunting characters and clear-eyed depictions of violence.… (more)

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Recommended to me by my mom, because she liked it but also because the author was pregnant when she wrote it, and has a Masters in Library Science - parallels to my own life right now! But I digress. Lucy is seventeen when her developmentally disabled friend Cheri is found cut into pieces and stuffed in a tree. Cheri had been missing for a year, but was written off as a runaway. Lucy never bought that explanation, especially once she finds some evidence that Cheri had been staying near their small, rural town. As Lucy learns more about Cheri's disappearance, she notices a lot of parallels between her own mother's disappearance, which happened when Lucy was a baby. This book isn't a major "whodunit" mystery, but the way it unfolds, and especially the ending, are very satisfying, and the whole thing is well-written. I look forward to reading a lot more from Laura McHugh. ( )
  howifeelaboutbooks | Nov 4, 2015 |
Set in the Ozarks, two mysteries, a generation apart are related simultaneously in alternating chapters with each chapter headed by the character involved in that part of the story. The smalltown rural setting with its interesting characters and dark secrets make for a compelling, page turner! It's hard to believe this is a debut novel. ( )
  jwood652 | Oct 21, 2015 |
Set in the Ozarks, two mysteries, a generation apart are related simultaneously in alternating chapters with each chapter headed by the character involved in that part of the story. The smalltown rural setting with its interesting characters and dark secrets make for a compelling, page turner! It's hard to believe this is a debut novel. ( )
  jwood652 | Oct 21, 2015 |
The town of Henbane in the beautiful Ozark Mountains holds an ugly secret. Decades before, a newcomer bewitched a town, fell in love, had a baby, and disappeared. Now, Lucy, her daughter, is looking for answers not only concerning her mother’s disappearance but also for the person who murdered her friend. The more she digs, the more it seems like her own family is somehow involved in both cases. As the story vacillates between the past and the present, tension gradually builds. While the conclusion may be a bit weak, the plot is still a good one, and for the most part, characters are well developed. A page turner for sure, even if the end seems a bit rushed. ( )
  Maydacat | Jul 30, 2015 |
Summary: It seems like a contradiction: in a town the size of Henbane, Missouri, deep in the Ozark mountains, everyone knows everything about everyone else… but there are still dark secrets buried deep. Seventeen-year-old Lucy Dane has lived her entire life with one of these secrets; her mother, who was an outsider to Henbane, disappeared without a trace when Lucy was little more than a baby, and folks still whisper about what might have happened to her. Lucy grew up with her dad and her uncle, and dreams about getting out of Henbane herself, but now another young woman - one of Lucy's friends - has disappeared, only to turn up gruesomely murdered. Perhaps because of what happened to her mother, Lucy is driven to find out what happened to Cheri, but in doing so, she may be uncovering darker secrets from the past than even she wants to know.

Review: I'm of somewhat mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, I read it in a single day, staying up way past my bedtime to race through to the ending, so it clearly was very engaging. On the other hand, I finished the book not entirely satisfied, thought that it hadn't really earned its ending, and ultimately didn't find it particularly memorable.

So the good stuff first: the first half to two-thirds of this book were a knock-out. The setting was very vivid, and incredibly realistic - which is important, since the Henbane and its surroundings play a major role in the story. I could absolutely feel the still claustrophobic summer heat of the Ozarks, and the similar claustrophobia of living in a small town where everybody has known you your entire life, but is harboring dark secrets of their own. McHugh uses that setting to develop tension and suspense very quickly, and the shifting narrative - there's a second storyline, narrated by a young woman named Lila, but it's not initially clear who she is or when this story is taking place - keeps the reader even more off balance. By page 100, I was doubting everything and everyone. I thought to myself: "She's clearly setting up one character to be on the shady and suspicious side, but what if he's not the bad guy? What if it's someone Lucy trusts? What if it's her boyfriend? Why is he being so nice to her? What if it's her dad? WHAT IF LUCY HERSELF IS THE MURDERER IN SOME KIND OF FUGUE STATE?" Okay, that last one is exaggeration, but I was impressed that McHugh could conjure this bucolic atmosphere where no one can be trusted to be what they seem.

My issues with the book stem largely from the fact that everyone is pretty much exactly what they seem to be. For a book that is marketed as being in the vein of Tana French or Gillian Flynn, the fact that the person who you originally think is the bad guy ultimately winds up being the bad guy is kind of disappointing. The ending also got a little "tell-y" rather than "show-y". I feel like if you have to take a paragraph to explain why a character acted the way they did during the pivotal final confrontation, then you haven't done a good enough job with your characterization in the first part of the book. Similarly, I get that the title of the book is a metaphor; I really don't need to have what "the weight of blood" really means explained to me at length in the last 10 pages.

I don't read a ton of mystery/thrillers, but the ones I do read tend to be pretty stellar. The Weight of Blood had a lot of potential, and while it was an enjoyable enough way to spend the afternoon, it ultimately didn't quite stack up against some of the better examples of the genre. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: If mystery/suspense is your genre, this is a compelling if not brilliant or surprising example of the genre. ( )
  fyrefly98 | Jul 24, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 85 (next | show all)
With her riveting debut, "The Weight of Blood," Laura McHugh makes a strong bid at cementing a new tradition of regional crime fiction while keeping tourism low in the Ozarks........McHugh has crafted a sharp, haunting tale of blood in the Ozarks, as substantial as it is pleasurable to read.

McHugh cleverly tells the story in several first-person voices, mostly that of Lucy and her mother. The reader will know early on who the primary villain is, and may wonder at Lucy’s naiveté in not figuring it out sooner. But as in real life but oh-so-rarely in fiction, the villain here may not be 100 percent villainous, nor are the good guys necessarily 100 percent blame-free.

The plot will keep readers of The Weight of Blood reading far past their bedtimes, but it’s McHugh’s shadings and subtleties of character that’ll have them looking at their own families with new eyes and looking for her next book with eager ones.
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That Cheri Stoddard was found at all was the thing that set people on edge, even more so than the condition of her body.
You grow up feeling the weight of blood, of family. There’s no forsaking kin.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0812995201, Hardcover)

For fans of Gillian Flynn, Scott Smith, and Daniel Woodrell comes a gripping, suspenseful novel about two mysterious disappearances a generation apart.
The town of Henbane sits deep in the Ozark Mountains. Folks there still whisper about Lucy Dane’s mother, a bewitching stranger who appeared long enough to marry Carl Dane and then vanished when Lucy was just a child. Now on the brink of adulthood, Lucy experiences another loss when her friend Cheri disappears and is then found murdered, her body placed on display for all to see. Lucy’s family has deep roots in the Ozarks, part of a community that is fiercely protective of its own. Yet despite her close ties to the land, and despite her family’s influence, Lucy—darkly beautiful as her mother was—is always thought of by those around her as her mother’s daughter. When Cheri disappears, Lucy is haunted by the two lost girls—the mother she never knew and the friend she couldn’t save—and sets out with the help of a local boy, Daniel, to uncover the mystery behind Cheri’s death.
What Lucy discovers is a secret that pervades the secluded Missouri hills, and beyond that horrific revelation is a more personal one concerning what happened to her mother more than a decade earlier.
The Weight of Blood is an urgent look at the dark side of a bucolic landscape beyond the arm of the law, where a person can easily disappear without a trace. Laura McHugh proves herself a masterly storyteller who has created a harsh and tangled terrain as alive and unforgettable as the characters who inhabit it. Her mesmerizing debut is a compelling exploration of the meaning of family: the sacrifices we make, the secrets we keep, and the lengths to which we will go to protect the ones we love.
Praise for The Weight of Blood
“A fantastic novel, rich in character and atmosphere . . . This is one you won’t want to miss.”—Karin Slaughter, author of Unseen
“Laura McHugh’s vivid and enthralling The Weight of Blood centers on a mother and daughter in a seemingly benign yet deeply horrifying small town. It kept me on the edge of my seat from the first page to the last.”—Vanessa Diffenbaugh, author of The Language of Flowers
The Weight of Blood pulled me in and wouldn’t let go. What starts as Lucy’s coming-of-age story becomes a chilling tale about the price of secrets. As the menace deepens, so does the tension. Laura McHugh has written a terrific novel.”—Meg Gardiner, Edgar Award–winning author of The Shadow Tracer
“Once I picked up Laura McHugh’s The Weight of Blood, I couldn’t put it down. I kept turning pages long into the night, bewitched by the enchanting Ozark landscape and the haunting murder mystery at its heart. The Weight of Blood is the kind of novel that leaves the reader breathless and wanting more.”—Amy Greene, author of Bloodroot
“In this riveting debut, Laura McHugh weaves together the stories of two women, separated by a generation, who each reveal pieces of a story that gains momentum and power as its shape becomes clear. This novel will keep you up all night.”—Christina Baker Kline, author of Orphan Train
“An elegant time bomb of a novel, a coming-of age story that holds you captive from the first sentence and doesn’t let go of you after the last.”—Tracy Guzeman, author of The Gravity of Birds

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:03:31 -0400)

"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"--… (more)

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