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.
©2014 Laura McHugh (P)2014 Random House Audio
"In this clever, multilayered debut, McHugh deftly explores the past of an Ozark Mountain family… with plenty to hide and the ruthlessness to keep their secrets hidden…. This is an outstanding first novel, replete with suspense, crisp dialogue, and vivid Ozarks color and atmosphere." (Publishers Weekly)
"Debut novelist McHugh comes out swinging with this gripping tale set in the Ozarks of Missouri…. 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 in Henbane." (Library Journal)
Avid audible listener for over 10 years.
This is a good but not great book. There are two major characters and two plot lines so it gets confusing if you do not pay attention. The book jumps back and forth between the two just about every chapter so you have to figure out where you are in time. Since there is one narrator and she does not change her voice that much between the two women characters (mother and daughter) you find yourself trying to figure out what story line you are listening to. They are related but not the same. Most of the other characters are in both so it can be even more confusing. This might be better a better kindle than audible book for that reason.
Short, Simple, No Spoilers
Lila came to Henbane under duplicitous circumstances, disappearing from a seemingly happy life. Present day daughter Lucy searches for clues to her friend's murder and mother's past. The characters in this backwoods, gritty story are well drawn out and McHugh's writing style is fluid and easy. The first 3/4 of the book kept my attention and enjoyed the narrator for Lila (Shanon McManus?). Lucy's story was mildly immature and didn't care for the narrator's voice. While waiting for the final big reveal, the book ended. Oops, hate it when that happens. Found this entertaining, but cannot hold a candle to "Winter's Bone".
Based on the reviews I thought this would be good. It's average at best. I don't see the hype about Ozarks as this could have been anywhere. Performance was so-so. I wouldn't recommend unless this was drastically on sale.
Okay, so the protagonist is a young girl living in the Ozarks. Long ago, her mother disappeared without explanation. Don't buy the hype -- while mildly entertaining, the quality of the writing, the sophistication of the plot (including way too much "young romance"), and the depth of character development compare poorly with Woodrell and Flynn. Not a BAD read, but setting up the listener to expect another Winter's Bone or Gone Girl didn't do McHugh any favors.
Rating scale: 5=Loved it, 4=Liked it, 3=Ok, 2=Disappointed, 1=Hated it. I look for well developed characters, compelling stories.
The author had an interesting premise for a mystery with a potentially atmospheric setting. But she failed to fulfill that promise through uneven pacing and mediocre character development. Using the mother-daughter narrative lines to relate two separate disappearances allowed us to experience the mysteries of both, but also formed a relentlessly symmetric feel to the whole, right down to the father-boyfriend connections. These four characters were so similar as to be interchangeable, and all of the supporting characters remained flat. There was no sense of time passing because the two story lines sounded exactly alike. Clues dropped too early placed the reader so far ahead in the plot that the effect was of impatience for the characters to catch up rather than feeling the tension of a plot thickening.
There should have been a much darker tone to a story filled with such nasty goings-on in a region that is close minded and superstitious. Especially since the community supposedly thought of the first vanished woman as a witch, just because she appeared from the exotic planet of Iowa. But the tone was not dark, and the residents of the small town just came across as rude, not fearfully superstitious. At one point as Lucy is digging into her mother’s mystery, she made a “Nancy Drew” reference to herself, and that encapsulated what I found wrong with this story – a YA level plot trying to be grown up. I pushed through to the end, but it felt like a push with an ultimately disappointing ending.
I've seen comparisons between this book and those written by Gillian Flynn. In my estimation there is simply no comparison. Except the references to Missouri. It was OK, but the story was not tight,and some characters seemed to dissolve from the narrative with no resolution. If someone really wants to get a sense of sourthern Missouri and the culture of the Ozarks they should read Daniel Woodrell. There is no one who captures it better.
List of favorite books: Woodcutter - Reginald Hill, Consent to Kill, First Deadly Sin - Lawrence Sanders, Sniper Elite - Scott McEwen
I know I'm not right in the head sometimes because I really enjoy the dark twisty stuff in this novel and the mystery that unfolds. I like the back and forth story telling that eventually comes together. I am a big fan of Gillian Flynns and though this novel isn't as dark as Dark Places or Sharp Objects - It is definitely a good story.
"There is scarcely any passion without struggle." Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays
Ms. McHugh has written an excellent first novel, a story told from the perspective of multiple narrators, but primarily by a mother and a daughter, with related story lines 17 years apart in time. The novel has one of the most despicable villains in all of recent literature.
The eponymous quote:
"You grow up feeling the weight of blood, of family. There's no forsaking kin but you can't help when kin forsakes you or when strangers come to be family."
Using a suspicious mountain town with an incredibly seedy underside as her backdrop, I believe Ms. McHugh accomplished exactly and outstandingly what she intended. Blood versus Heart. Two female protagonists related to ambiguous, weak-spined male thread to villain (one by blood, one by marriage), playing with the variations in between, including the exploitation of young females.
The main characters are pretty well developed, but the story and the structure win the day here.
I'd say 4.5 stars, but I'll give it 5 because I didn't want to stop listening before I finished and I was sorry that it ended.
The narrators were all top notch.
A bit spoilery - Proving that Chris Bohjalian isn't the only one who can write well about the forced prostitution of women. A decent thriller with plenty of atmosphere, but I felt the ending pulled its punch and the villain (who is obvious and there is no twist; he is who he is) gets no real punishment. As a matter of fact, the slavery of young women appears to just go on. And not just the girls who are sold for sex, many of the women in town are equally in bonds and cannot stop what's happening. One thing that bugged me was that the two narrators who take the alternate perspectives of Lucy and Lila sounded too much alike. If I let my attention wander I sometimes couldn't tell which was which. Really, would it be so hard to find another woman who doesn't sound like a little girl?
This was a very unique story with an outstanding plot. I loved the geographical references and how they influenced the character build up. Simply put, an overall great story. I especially loved that the book was narrated using 3 different people to give voice to each character independently.
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