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The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh

The Weight of Blood

by Laura McHugh

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A tiny, depressed town in the Missouri Ozarks. Two brothers, Crete and Carl, grown up under a schizophrenic mother. Though the mother doesn’t play that large a part in the book, their upbringing influenced the men they became. A girl who becomes a wife, a mother, and then disappears. Now seventeen years old, Lucy works at her uncle Crete’s store, always wondering about her mother, Lila, and now, about her neighbor, Cheri, found murdered.

The book is written in a split narrative, with several voices and with timelines about 1992-1994 and 2011. Lucy and Lila narrate in first person. The secondary characters tell their stories in third person. Quite effective for this story.

“You grow up feeling the weight of blood, of family. There’s no forsaking kin.”

This is a story about family loyalties and about ties that can be closer than family. Throw in the unsolved murder, missing girls, and a well-woven story, and you have a very good debut novel! ( )
1 vote countrylife | Apr 16, 2014 |
While this book is touted as a mystery, that's not its strong suit. Yes, it has a wonderfully creepy beginning, and there are mysteries to be solved. The strongest part of the book for me, though, was the characterization. I loved some of these people and appropriately hated some others. I had to cheer on Lila, Lucy, and Carl even when Carl was in a drunken stupor, but Crete – no, not such a nice guy, but not entirely evil either. Even the lesser characters, Bess, Birdie, Gabby, and Ransome as well as others were multidimensional and interesting.

Cheri – what a sad little girl who was dealt a rotten hand.

The story is about family and those clichéd ties that bind, about whether blood is thicker than water. It's about superstition and acceptance, about what is hidden in hearts.

If you're looking for a fast-moving, action-packed mystery, this will probably not satisfy, but for a look into fictitious human souls in an interesting setting, this book works quite well.

I was given an advance reader's copy of this book for review. ( )
  TooBusyReading | Apr 13, 2014 |
Laura McHugh is garnering lots of attention with her debut novel, The Weight of Blood. (And it's all good!)

Seventeen year old Lucy Dane was born in the Ozark mountain town of Henbane, but has never been fully accepted by the community. Although her father is a native son, her mother Lila was an outsider, with rumours and suspicions constantly being whispered about her. Lucy doesn't remember her - she disappeared when she was a toddler.

Other people have disappeared from Henbane as well - including a friend of Lucy. Lucy wants answers - about her mother and her friend. And so she begins nosing about.....perhaps not the wisest choice in a town full of secrets - and secret keepers.

As a reader, we know much more. In part one, McHugh cuts the narrative between Lucy's present day search for answers and Lila's arrival and life in Henbane. Although a generation apart, Lila and Lucy's stories seem to mirror each other. Other voices are introduced in the next two parts, bring a different perspective and shedding further light on both the past and present.

McHugh does a great job in setting the tone of the novel. Details and descriptions of everyday life, the locale, the customs and the mood of the town and its inhabitants are richly drawn. I had vivid pictures of Lucy and Lila sitting on the same front porch.

Of the two main characters, I found myself most drawn to Lila, perhaps because I wanted things to be better for her. Lucy makes some rash choices that had me thinking 'oh no!' more than once. But, I did want her to find answers. Both for herself and me. I had a fairly clear idea of where things were going to end, but the journey there was a very good read. Tension filled and a page turner.

A few of the supporting cast of characters were a wee bit cliched. But, the reader has no trouble discerning who is 'good' and who is 'bad'. Or do they? For the lines are blurred in The Weight of Blood. Where does loyalty lie?

"You grow up feeling the weight of blood, of family. There's no forsaking kin."

I thought McHugh's choice of the name Henbane for the town was somewhat revealing.. Henbane is 'a coarse and poisonous plant of the nightshade family, with sticky hairy leaves and an unpleasant smell.' The case of Lucy's missing friend is based on a horrifying true event.

I reviewed a book last month that fell into a newly (to me) coined genre - grit lit. The Weight of Blood has a distinctly Southern Gothic feel to it, but I would also tag it as grit lit. Dark, dangerous and grittily atmospheric. The Weight of Blood is an excellent debut and has marked McHugh as an author I'll be watching. Her second novel Arrowood is in the works. ( )
  Twink | Apr 7, 2014 |
good mystery! loved the characters! couldn't put it down!!!! ( )
  amanaceerdh | Apr 6, 2014 |
I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.
I was so captivated by this book. It is a Pearl in the sea of stories and there are very few real Pearls around.
This mixed version of the stories coming from past and present and from various characters of the book is thrilling and fascinating. It's amazing how Lucy doesn't back down on her investigation, how she is ready to do everything possible to get to the truth.
What she discovers will leave you open mouthed.
Amazing ( )
  Sarah.Hansrote | Mar 30, 2014 |
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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 Sat, 02 Nov 2013 02:15:15 -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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