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The Weight of Blood: A Novel Hardcover – March 11, 2014

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Editorial Reviews Review

Author One-on-One: Karin Slaughter and Laura McHugh

Karin SlaughterNichole Bernier

Karin Slaughter is the #1 internationally bestselling author of several novels, including the Grant County series and the Will Trent series.

KARIN SLAUTHER: You moved to the Ozarks as a child, which must have been a startling change. I’ve always thought outsiders are the best storytellers—you see things other people take for granted. Which parts of your own hometown did you incorporate into the fictionalized setting of Henbane? Do you think folks back home will recognize it?

LAURA MCHUGH: The main thing that I took from Tecumseh was the striking landscape—it’s beautiful and wild and a bit ominous. I lived near the river, like Lucy, and there was a general store, now long gone, that inspired Dane’s. Folks back home might recognize the Rockbridge Trout and Game Ranch (where Carl goes fishing), the East Wind Commune (which was down the road from my house), and The Covenant, the Sword, and the Arm of the Lord (a militia group whose nearby compound was raided by the FBI), all of which are mentioned in passing in the book.

KS: As a southerner, I put the Ozarks on the same plane as the Florida Panhandle or Georgia’s Okeefenokee Swamp: filled with a mixture of lawless rednecks and the salt-of-the earth folks who are trying to navigate around them. I think you capture both sides very well in your story. Were you at all afraid to write about such a complicated region, or did you feel it was a natural extension of “write what you know?”

LM: I was certainly hoping not to offend my Ozark friends! It’s fiction, of course, and my version of the Ozarks is colored by my own ideas and experiences. I was an outsider in Ozark County, but it was also my home, and I wanted to play with both sides of that experience. It’s a fascinating place, unlike anywhere else I’ve been.

KS: You’ve said that the story was partially inspired by a brutal crime in Lebanon. Were you afraid that writing about a similar crime would cut too close to the bone?

LM: The real-life victim was taken to a hospital, and thankfully she survived. Cheri Stoddard, the character inspired by the case, was not so lucky, although her experience pales in comparison to what the real victim endured. I lived in Lebanon for several years, and it’s a fairly small town where most people know each other. Though I didn’t stick to the facts of the real case, I wanted to show that crimes like this can, and do, occur anywhere, and it’s scary to realize how easily they can be hidden in our midst.

KS: Every thriller writer always gets asked what scares them. Ruth Rendell famously posited that if she told someone she was afraid of dogs, the next appearance she did, everyone would bring a dog. So, I’ll ask what you don’t find scary—in books, TVs, movies. What’s that one cliché that just makes you cringe?

LM: I love scary movies, but I’m also a big scaredy-cat—I made the kids and dog sleep in bed with me after I watched Paranormal Activity. The one thing I don’t like in a horror film is when the bad guy wears a mask and doesn’t speak. Michael Myers pulled it off in the original Halloween, but in general, I think it’s much scarier when the villain has a personality and some interesting dialogue.

KS: We’re so saturated in media these days that everyone wants a reference to an actor or actress for the various characters in books. This is an awful question for an author, because one reader’s Ryan Gosling is another reader’s David Hasselhoff. Still, it has to be asked: Have you thought about who might play the Dane brothers?

LM: I think Michael Rooker would be excellent as Crete. I first saw him in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. His performance was so convincing that I’ve been scared of him ever since. I also loved him on The Walking Dead. And since we’re just fantasizing here, I’d cast Joe Manganiello from True Blood as Carl.

KS: A great deal of the suspense in your novel centers around the issue of trust—who can Lucy rely on, who is working against her, who might be dangerous. To me, that cuts to the very nature of living in the Ozarks or any small town where you know everyone’s history if not their intent. In your book, the truth seems to take on its own narrative angle. Can you talk a little bit about how you wove the question of trust into the story?

LM: Lucy is coming of age in this story, and she is starting to question things that she had always accepted. Trust is a big part of that. She’s learning how to follow her own instincts and figure out for herself where her loyalties lie. It’s a difficult but necessary path for Lucy to navigate, a part of growing up.

KS: Your next novel also takes place in a rural setting. With a region such as the Ozarks, there are as many stories as there are pebbles in a river. How do you decide which one you’re going to tell next?

LM: When sifting through story ideas, I gravitate to the one with the most emotional pull. My next novel is set in the small Mississippi River town where my grandparents lived, and though the story is not based on real events, it was fueled by my personal connection to the setting—specifically, the decay and decline of a place that was once quite grand and close to my heart.

From Booklist

McHugh sets her first novel in a starkly rendered fictional Missouri town located in the Ozarks. Lucy Dane is shocked to learn that the dismembered body of her childhood friend, the slow-witted Cheri Stoddard, who had been missing for a year, has been found in the branches of a tree. Desperate to learn how Cheri came to such a tragic end, Lucy begins to look for answers to a mystery that echoes the disappearance of her own mother years ago. Many people in town know more than they’re saying, including Birdie, the local midwife, and Ransome, a weather-beaten farmhand now confined to a nursing home. But only Daniel, her handsome coworker, offers her real help. As her search takes her closer to her own family members and old secrets, Lucy must confront the fact that the people she loves are deeply flawed. This suspenseful novel, with a barn burner of a plot, is told from several points of view, including that of Lucy’s mother. Despite some missteps, McHugh shows herself to be a compelling writer intimately familiar with rural poverty and small-town weirdness; the best is yet to come. --Joanne Wilkinson

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Spiegel & Grau; First Edition edition (March 11, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812995201
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812995206
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (419 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #108,447 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

This is an author I will definitely follow and will look forward to her next book!
The story is told from the differing perspectives of those involved and also from two different periods of time.
This is a really great book, very well written, with interesting characters and an interesting story line.
Ann M. Pitman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Nitty's Mom TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 2, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I had a very good feeling about this debut novel and I was correct. Inspired by a true incident, this author crafts a powerful story that draws you into hidden secrets. The chapters alternate between seventeen year old Lucy Dane in the present and her mother Lila, during the short time she lived in Henbane, Missouri. Towards the end of the book, chapters are also narrated by familiar residents of the town, who let us in on the details of the story that only they are privy to.

Lucy Dane is saddened when her friend/neighbor, Cheri is found dead after a years time, stuffed into the hollow of a tree. Cheri was cognitively impaired and Lucy was nice to her even though "she had outgrown her in certain ways". While Cheri's death is initially the talk of the town, the fervor quickly abates and she is forgotten. Lucy, however, is unable to let go as easily, as Cheri's death evokes another disappearance, that of her mother Lila. Lucy has no memory of the mother who she is told loved her very much but disappeared when she was 1 year old. Lucy has a hard time believing that it was depression that lead her mother to enter a cave with a shotgun and never return. Lucy's father, Carl has never remarried or gotten over his wife's disappearance. He is fighting his own battles with the past. He is protective of Lucy and it's a big deal when he allows the 17 year old to work at her uncle Crete's store. The job brings Lucy in close contact with a boy from her high school that she has a crush on. When her Uncle Crete asks the two of them to clean one of his abandoned trailers and Lucy finds a necklace that belonged to Cheri, the present and the past collide.
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47 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Rob Slaven on March 11, 2014
Format: Hardcover
As usual I received this book for free for the purposes of review. In this case because someone passed along an ARC they had received in a drawing. Despite that kind consideration my candid thoughts appear below.

At a high level I'd categorize this as an exceptionally gritty back-country child welfare bildungsroman. The situations described are at times horrifying while remaining completely realistic. The narrative is broken into three parts, in the first the primary narrators are two women in the same tiny Midwestern town separated only by time. In the final two parts of the book the cast of narrators expands to include just about everyone involved and we are allowed to slowly piece together not only the truth of events as they occurred but also the motivations behind the actions of everyone involved.

On the positive side, this book leaves out nothing. It has chosen a difficult topic and it addresses it with complete honesty and pulls no punches, proverbial or otherwise. The narrative, as gritty as it is, is presented in a very readable manner and the author is exceptional at her craft. A wonderful first novel to be certain.

On the negative side, when the second half of the novel begins and the cast of narrators expands, the book does become somewhat difficult to follow. What the characters have to say is essential but it was difficult as a reader to adjust to the constant shifting of perspective when one person might only have the floor for 2 or 3 pages. I found myself wishing that I'd taken some notes.

In summary, this is a brilliant debut novel but it does bear close and careful reading. This isn't fluff, it's dirty, grimy details. It's well worth the effort but don't get lulled into a false sense that you can skate through it. Give it its due time and attention and it will reward you nicely.
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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Gravley on March 12, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you love mysteries or literary novels, The Weight of Blood is for you. It has the best of both worlds: a compelling plot that never flags (warning: you won't want to put this one down once you start reading it) and great writing--voices and imagery that carry you along without calling unnecessary attention to themselves. One of the many charms of this novel is its narration. The story is told from the points of view of a daughter and her mother (mainly--a few other voices chime in and add essential pieces of the puzzle for the reader). The twin storylines and the incredible atmosphere, which the Ozarks setting plays a huge role in, will keep you turning pages.

If you're looking for a beautifully written book with an utterly engaging story, read The Weight of Blood. And keep in mind that this is Laura McHugh's first novel! I eagerly await the treasures her next books are sure to be.
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32 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Ferdy VINE VOICE on February 17, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Henbane, a tiny town in the Ozarks, is a place where everyone knows everyone else, strangers are not welcome and secrets are kept buried deep. Lucy is 17 years old. Her mother disappeared when she was a baby and no trace of her was ever found. Now, Lucy has a friend who disappeared for a while and then turned up dismembered and stuffed into a tree trunk. After stumbling upon clue that may provide evidence about what happened to her friend, Lucy begins to dig for more answers. She soon finds that solving the mystery of what happened to her friend may also lead her to the truth about what happened to her mother. The story is told from the differing perspectives of those involved and also from two different periods of time. Just enough is revealed by each chapter to keep you wanting more. You'll love Lucy, a girl with so much heart and spirit. I started reading this one snowy morning and had finished it before dinner time. Everytime I tried to take a break, I'd decide just one more page and get pulled back in to the story wanting to know what happened next. Laura McHugh is a fabulous writer. I certainly will look forward to any future books. For anyone who is a fan of Southern literature, mysteries or family dramas, don't miss this novel.
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