Sunday, January 05, 2014

The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh

The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh
It was common knowledge that in the hills, with infinite hiding places, bodies disappeared. They were fed to hogs or buried deep in the woods or dropped into abandoned wells. They were not dismembered and set out on display. It just wasn't how things were done. It was that lack of adherence to custom that seemed to frighten people the most. Why would someone risk getting caught in order to show us what he'd done to Cheri when it would have been so easy to keep her body hidden? The only reasonable explanation was that an outsider was responsible, and outsiders bred fear in a way no homegrown criminal could. (12)
When 17-year-old Lucy Dane's developmentally delayed friend disappeared one year earlier, no one in their small town of Henbane, Missouri seemed particularly concerned, not even Cheri's mother. Cheri's first pegged as a runway then quickly forgotten. The discovery of Cheri's dismembered body first brought news crews, then a run on locks and ammunition, but that fervor is short-lived. A lack of leads coupled with the passage of time allows Cheri's murder to fade quietly into the backdrop of life in Henbane. Only Lucy, whose own mother disappeared 16 years earlier, continues to search for answers.

As Lucy begins to find clues about Cheri's life during that unaccounted for year, she begins to hope that she'll be able to discover information about her mother's mysterious disappearance as well. However the more Lucy learns, the more complicated both present and past seems to be. As the novel unfolds parallels are drawn between Cheri's disappearance and that of Lila Dane. In order to unearth the truth about her mother's disappearance Lucy will have to "look past what [she's] always been taught and listen to what [she] know[s] in [her] bones to be true" (223).

The Weight of Blood is an exploration of the ties that bind and the weight of blood. McHugh intersperses the contemporary narrative with flashback's to Lila's life during (and immediately before) her time in Henbane and utilizes different points of view at different times in the novel to great effect  (though readers who dislike multiple POV novels are going to have trouble with this one as the POV characters multiply in the second half of the book).  McHugh's characters are well-drawn and multifaceted (another obvious symptom of McHugh's effective use of different viewpoints throughout the novel).  The story is both gripping (even after readers find out who is most likely responsible for Lila's disappearance, they will still keep turning the pages desperate to learn exactly what happened to her) and evocative (McHugh charts both physical and interior landscapes so clearly for her readers). 

The Weight of Blood will be available in March 2014. It's McHugh's debut novel and I look forward to reading whatever she puts out next.
disclosure: I received a review copy of The Weight of Blood from Random House via NetGalley.

1 comment:

  1. Karen is absolutely right on with her review of this novel. I live in Missouri and know that there is something different about some of these back woods environments. Thing happen in the woods--for better or worse without a word said. I too have read the book and the author knows of what she writes. Bill