So Much Pretty
By Cara Hoffman
(Simon & Schuster, Hardcover, 9781451616750, 304pp.)
Publication Date: March 15, 2011
List Price: $25.00*
* Individual store prices may vary.
Enter your zip code below to find indies closest to you.
“A mixture of The Lovely Bones and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”—Booklist
When she disappeared from her rural hometown, Wendy White was a sweet, family-oriented girl, a late bloomer who’d recently moved out on her own, with her first real boyfriend and a job waiting tables at the local tavern. It happens all the time—a woman goes missing, a family mourns, and the case remains unsolved. Stacy Flynn is a reporter looking for her big break. She moved east from Cleveland, a city known for its violent crime, but that’s the last thing she expected to cover in Haeden. This small, upstate New York town counts a dairy farm as its main employer and is home to families who’ve set down roots and never left—people who don’t take kindly to outsiders. Flynn is researching the environmental impact of the dairy, and the way money flows outward like the chemical runoff, eventually poisoning those who live at the edges of its reach.
Five months after she disappeared, Wendy’s body is found in a ditch just off one of Haeden’s main roads. Suddenly, Flynn has a big story, but no one wants to talk to her. No one seems to think that Wendy’s killer could still be among them. A drifter, they say. Someone “not from here.”
Fifteen-year-old Alice Piper is an imaginative student with a genius IQ and strong ideals. The precocious, confident girl has stood out in Haeden since the day her eccentric hippie parents moved there from New York City, seeking a better life for their only child. When Alice reads Flynn’s passionate article in the Haeden Free Press about violence against women—about the staggering number of women who are killed each day by people they know—she begins to connect the dots of Wendy’s disappearance and death, leading her to make a choice: join the rest in turning a blind eye, or risk getting involved. As Flynn and Alice separately observe the locals’ failure to acknowledge a murderer in their midst, Alice’s fate is forever entwined with Wendy’s when a second crime rocks the town to its core.
Stylishly written, closely observed, and bracingly unexpected, So Much Pretty leads the reader into the treacherous psychology of denial, where the details of an event are already known, deeply and intuitively felt, but not yet admitted to, reconciled or revealed.
Cara Hoffman is the author of the internationally critically acclaimed novel So Much Pretty. She has won a New York State Foundation for the Arts fellowship for her work on the aesthetics of violence and its impact on children and has been a visiting writer at St. John's University, Goddard College, Columbia University, and Oxford University, where she lectured on Antisocial Masculinity for the Rhodes Global Scholars Symposium. Her essays have been featured on NPR, Red, Women Under Siege, and Truthout. Hoffman currently teaches writing and literature at Bronx Community College and sings classical music with the St. George Choral Society, Manhattan's oldest choir.
- The story's prologue is an ominous introduction. How does this dark overture—focused on searching out something that isn't easily found— frame the story?