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The town of Henbane sits deep in the Ozark Mountains. Read more...
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NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY "BOOKPAGE"
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"
" An] expertly crafted thriller."--"Entertainment Weekly, ""The Must List"
"Haunting . . . a] riveting debut."--"Los Angeles Times"
"Laura McHugh's atmospheric debut . . . conjures a menacingly beautiful Ozark setting and a nest of poisonous family secrets reminiscent of Daniel Woodrell's "Winter's Bone."""--Vogue"
"Fantastic . . . a mile-a-minute thriller."--"The Dallas Morning News"
"Gripping . . . Her prose will not only keep readers turning the pages but also paints a real and believable portrait of the connections, alliances, and sacrifices that underpin rural, small-town life. . . . Strongly recommended for readers who enjoy thrillers by authors such as Laura Lippman and Tana French.""--Library Journal "(starred review)
"The sinister tone builds relentlessly.""--The Plain Dealer"
"Rich in character and atmosphere . . . This is one you won't want to miss."--Karin Slaughter
"Daniel Woodrell better watch his back. . . . "Weight of Blood" is a tense, taut novel and a truly remarkable debut. . . . A suspenseful thrill ride that satisfies in all the right ways."--"BookPage"
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2013-11-11
- Reviewer: Staff
In this clever, multilayered debut, McHugh deftly explores the past of an Ozark Mountain family (think doublewides, pickups, and possum stew) with plenty to hide and the ruthlessness to keep their secrets hidden. Seventeen-year-old Lucy Dane, from Henbane, Mo., is grieving for her murdered friend, Cheri, and her mother, Lila, who vanished soon after Lucy was born. Determined to solve both mysteries, Lucy never realizes just how close the answers might lie. Her father, Carl, and her uncle, Crete, are not forthcoming about what they know, which only makes her more curious. McHugh alternates narrators, presenting each chapter from one character’s perspective, but the most compelling is Lila’s (given in flashbacks to her arrival in the area 18 years earlier, as a contract farm employee of Uncle Crete). Young Lila’s hopes for a fresh start after a childhood spent bouncing from one foster home to another are dashed when she painfully learns that Crete plans to put her to work as a prostitute. In the present, Lucy uncovers evidence that puts her in jeopardy, leading to sudden, surprising violence, followed by a tornado that helps wipe the slate clean. This is an outstanding first novel, replete with suspense, crisp dialogue, and vivid Ozarks color and atmosphere. Agent: Sally Wofford-Girand, Union Literary. (Mar.)
Ozark Mountain community haunted by two disappearances
Let’s get one thing straight: With The Weight of Blood, it’s clear that Laura McHugh is more than a pretender to the throne of the “rural noir” genre. If her dazzling and disturbing debut novel is anything to go by, she’s got her eye on the crown and has more than the necessary talent and skills to nab it for herself. Daniel Woodrell had better watch his back.
Lucy Dane has lived in Henbane all 17 years of her life, but she is ostracized by many of the town’s locals because of malicious rumors surrounding her mother, an exotic and bewitching outsider who disappeared without a trace when Lucy was just a baby. So when Lucy’s friend, Cheri, is found murdered, Lucy finds that the loss dredges up many of the long-buried questions about the day her mother wandered into Old Scratch Cavern with a pistol in hand and was never seen again. As Lucy digs deeper into what happened to Cheri, she begins uprooting the tenuous foundation of her own life—and discovers that some things may be better left lost.
The Weight of Blood is a tense, taut novel and a truly remarkable debut. McHugh, who moved to the Ozarks with her family as a preteen, elegantly interweaves the stories of Lucy and her mother, Lila, shifting between narratives to delicately ratchet up the tension and ensnare her audience, like a sly spider crafting a beautiful but deadly web. The pacing is swift, the writing redolent, and McHugh is not afraid to burrow into some very dark territory—readers will gasp in a mixture of surprise, horror and delight as pieces of her gruesome puzzle begin to slide into place. The Weight of Blood rewards its readers with a suspenseful thrill ride that satisfies in all the right ways.
ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read our Q&A with Laura McHugh for The Weight of Blood.