Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Weight of Blood -- Laura McHugh

I blame my morbid fascination with the Ozarks on Daniel Woodrell. His novels Give Us a Kiss and Winter's Bone (my two favorites of his) certainly did nothing for tourism for that part of the country, but I just can't get enough of reading about people whose sole redeeming quality may be that they feed their dogs fresh table scraps. The setting, then, is largely the reason I chose Laura McHugh's new novel The Weight of Blood. Not only could I visit the Ozarks from a hygienic distance again--and thus feel ever so much better about my own neighborhood--this time I'd be doing it through the eyes of a woman.

The story revolves around two mysteries, set apart by a generation: What became of Lila Dane, who walked away from her baby and was never seen again, and of Cheri, the simple-minded friend of Lila's daughter Lucy, whose body is found in pieces, stuffed into the cracks of a tree? 

The novel, written in alternating voices that slip and slide across time, commanded my attention for the most part, but began to unravel a little more than halfway through. New narrators are added, some from out of the clear-blue, and a couple of plot developments just felt as though they'd been tacked in sort of willy-nilly. Even so, I was invested enough in knowing the whys and wherefores that I couldn't put it down. 

Some other quibbles were that, unlike Woodrell's novels, the sense of place was not terribly pervasive, and there was a dearth of vernacular. That might be an asset to some readers, but not for this one. A writer who uses it judiciously and authentically takes the reader on the full ride, in my estimation. 

So, a good read, an interesting couple story lines, some excitement, some good guys, some bad guys, but not much soul. 

Spiegel & Grau
Random House Publishing Group
Publication Date: March 2014

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