disclaimer – i received an e-galley of this book from spiegel & grau in exchange for an honest review.
hang on during this review because there are spoilers and it’s going to seem like i’m completely turning around on my view of rape and violence against women and children in novels. i guarantee you, though, if you read to the end you’ll understand.
when lucy dane was a baby her mother disappeared and the mystery of that disappearance has never been solved. now lucy is in high school and one of her friends has disappeared. when her friend is found murdered, and lucy’s investigation leads her to an abandoned trailer where she finds her friend’s necklace, lucy starts digging deeper into her mother’s disappearance, her friend’s murder, and the secrets of the community where she grew up.
there are two levels to the weight of blood, there’s the here and now and there’s the then. like life, the then colours the now. it has to – everything we do we take with us through the rest of our lives and it impacts decisions we make or don’t make. it was clear to me early on in the novel who the “bad guy” was. what wasn’t clear was how he was the bad guy and why he was doing what he was doing. laura mchugh was very good at writing about all her characters with nuance and shading to let you know just enough to keep you reading because you had to find out the why and the how. even if once you find out the how and why, you really truly don’t want to know.
now here come the spoilers so stop reading now if you don’t want to know.
here’s where some of the premises of the novel get dicey for me because of my policies on what i will and won’t read. we find out in the novel that lucy is a child of rape. her mother, lila, was raped by crete who was trafficking in child sex slaves. lila wasn’t his first victim and she definitely wasn’t his last. just knowing something like that happened, as “background”, isn’t enough to turn me away from a novel but laura mchugh describes the rape scene as well as some sexual activities between a junior high principal and students.
normally, as soon as i get enough a hint of something like that going on in a book i’m done with it. but laura mchugh handled it differently. these weren’t just plot points for the story, these weren’t graphically described scenes with details woven throughout so that the reader would really hate the bad guy. mchugh handled the scenes as with as much dignity as could be allowed given the topic. what happened to lila was a horrific and brutal crime but wasn’t written for salacious detail and titillation. even the descriptions of the sexual depravities perpetrated by the principal isn’t provided so much for what they are as for what they mean. lila’s daughter is trapped in the same world lila was trapped in only she doesn’t know it, which puts her in even more danger as she tries to find out the truth about her friend’s murder and her mother’s disappearance.
three out of five stars