The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
For fans of
Gillian Flynn and Daniel Woodrell, a dark, gripping debut novel of
literary suspense about two mysterious disappearances, a generation
apart, and the meaning of family-the sacrifices we make, the secrets we
keep, and the lengths we will go to protect the ones we love.
Dane family's roots tangle deep in the Ozark Mountain town of Henbane,
but that doesn't keep sixteen-year-old Lucy Dane from being treated like
an outsider. Folks still whisper about her mother, a bewitching young
stranger who inspired local myths when she vanished years ago. When one
of Lucy's few friends, slow-minded Cheri, is found murdered, Lucy feels
haunted by the two lost girls-the mother she never knew and the friend
she couldn't protect. Everything changes when Lucy stumbles across
Cheri's necklace in an abandoned trailer and finds herself drawn into a
search for answers. What Lucy discovers makes it impossible to ignore
the suspicion cast on her own kin. More alarming, she suspects Cheri's
death could be linked to her mother's disappearance, and the connection
between the two puts Lucy at risk of losing everything. In a place where
the bonds of blood weigh heavy, Lucy must decide where her allegiances
My thoughts: This is not a book that sits easily yet it is somehow enchanting for all the disturbing, criminal activity described. It opens as Lucy, telling the story first person, relates that Cheri's body was discovered. She has been missing for over a year. Lucy feels guilty because nobody really missed Cheri. She was mentally challenged and severely neglected. Lucy decides to dig a little bit between her new job, working for her uncle and a new friendship with Daniel. In her head, she also relates that her mother walked away when she was only a baby with a pistol in her hands and never returned. The reader draws her own conclusions which are what the people of the town decided, as well.
The book is told in two timelines; Lucy's and Lila's. Lila is a foster kid who ages out of the system. She had a happy childhood until her mother and stepfather were killed in a car accident and she was placed in the state's custody. Wanting to go to college but having no money, she starts looking for a job which lands her in Henbane which, ironically, is named for the plant, Nightshade. Also "The Devil's Eye." The plant is medicinal and poisonous. This I gathered from another source but this fact is pertinent to the story, if you want a little symbolism.
The book continues on both timelines, revealing more and more of what happened to both girls. Lila is Lucy's mother. She was not yet 20 years old when she disappears. Cheri is very near that age, as well. Henbane has an assortment of characters. The most intriguing is Lucy's own uncle who carries the family's secrets. He also causes the family secrets, I might add. The story takes the reader through Lucy's and Lila's experiences and leaves the reader with a much larger understanding and acceptance of the definition of family and the weight of blood that connects them.
It is mysterious and somewhat on the dark side yet Lucy is an enjoyable character with spunk and personality.
Expect language, sex, and criminal activity that you don't want your kids to read about. It is not endorsed but is the underbelly of the story.