AUTHOR: Cara Hoffman
PUBLISHER/YEAR: Simon & Schuster/2011
SOURCE: Goodreads First Reads
Goodreads / Author's Website
Summary From Goodreads
A beautiful and chilling exploration of violence, vengeance, and the loss of innocence that would drive someone to commit an unthinkable crime.
Okay, so I originally posted a short review of So Much Pretty on goodreads and loved it. I raved. I had just finished reading it and was absolutely floored by the novel. I've had a few days reflection on it now and I'm not so sure. I still liked the book and it definitely stuck with me which is a positive sign, but I'm not sure that I'm still raving about it.
From the beginning we know that local small town girl Wendy White has been found dead in the forest and we know that Alice Piper is in some sort of trouble which may or may not be connected to the White case. Other than that we don't know much. Details are given to the reader sparingly. The story is told from multiple perspectives and jumps around in time. It's an interesting concept that annoyed me at first, but it's one of the things that I think really worked. It just took some time to get into. I think that less could be given away with police reports though; those were the only things that struck me as a kind of literary crutch.
Hoffman's writing is haunting and poetic, another thing I loved about this book. The writing is just so beautiful that even though the story is a slow one, it works. Yes, the story's slow. It followed a sort of lilting pace that seemed to connect to the locale; it is set in a town that's barely a town after all. It really didn't bother me. The writing itself was one of the major draws for me.
The subject matter itself is difficult. It deals with violence. Lots of violence. Violence against women is particularly focused on. Originally, I thought that the subject matter was dealt with brilliantly. I still think that it was handled with great delicacy. I like that Hoffman doesn't focus on the gruesome details of the crimes and instead the causes behind them and the societal attitudes that can lead to horrific events. I just don't know if the way she wrote about attitudes was as nuanced as I originally thought.
Hoffman attempts to show a difference in outlooks between the rural inhabitants of Haedon, New York, the small town where the book is set and the Pipers, relatively recent arrivals from the city. It's a difference in politics, reading material, attitudes towards commerce, just everything really. The more I thought about it, the more I thought that I'm not sure what conclusion I was supposed to draw from these difference. I'm not sure I fully understood the point behind it; I didn't get the correlation between these particular attitudes and the actual conclusion. Sections that focused on Wendy White were clear and I thought they worked so well. That's what made me love the book in the first place. The Alice Piper story line on the other hand, lost me a bit.
I still think it's a good book. It tells an important story and should not be ignored. I just don't love it as much as I once did.
Favourite Quote: "A man can only take so much pretty walking back and forth in front of him."