I received this book free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh
Published by Spiegel & Grau on March 11th 2014
Genres: Southern Gothic/Country Noir
Source: the Publisher
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.
The 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 lie.
The Weight of Blood is a dual-narrative story separated by decades with a startling likeness to one another. Lucy is struggling to deal with the death of her friend, Cheri, after her body was found in a creek. She had been missing for a year previous to the discovery and her body shows the signs of a truly destructive year. The second narrative is the almost two decades old story of Lila, an 18 year old girl who moves to Henbane after gaining employment by helping at the general store for Crete Dane. But that ends up being far from what she was truly hired to do.
In Part I, the chapters alternate between Lucy’s story in the present day and Lila’s story almost two decades in the past. This consistency helped in differentiating between the two stories that were different yet contained a similar cast of characters. When we get to Part II and III the chapters alternate between several different POVs and that made everything convoluted and it was difficult to figure out whether we were reading about the past or present.
The comparison to Winter’s Bone/Daniel Woodrell is what intrigued me initially but this is only fairly accurate. The main character in Winter’s Bone is Ree Dolly, an incredibly strong-willed heroine that is completely unforgettable. Lucy was a far cry from Ree. Lucy took it upon herself to investigate the death of her friend, but even when she had valuable evidence that should have been turned over to the police because she was clearly out of her element, she instead kept it to herself to her own detriment. The vividness of the Ozark’s was well done as was the depiction of the hidden peril that skulked underneath the facadé of this seemingly simple town.
The Weight of Blood falls under the category of Southern Gothic/Country Noir and it’s quickly become a favorite genre of mine. The Devil All the Time and Winter’s Bone are responsible for producing my fondness of the genre. Comparatively to those two, I would consider The Weight of Blood to be Southern Gothic ‘Lite’. The environmental depictions are spot-on as are the terrible things that go on unseen in this small town, but the author attempted redemption for the characters responsible for the evil, gave the evil doings an underlying meaning and that those actions had good intentions. If I’ve figured out anything about Southern Gothic novels it’s that ethics and morals have nothing to do with these stories and struggles between right and wrong are never existent. Justifying the evil doings was a misguided attempt at resolving the story.
The Weight of Blood is a Southern Gothic thriller I would recommend for fans of dual-narrative stories and suspenseful mysteries.