Reviewed by Bobby McCue
My local bookstore contacted me at the beginning of the year with the intriguing news that they had reserved a copy of The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh with me in mind. They know I’m a huge fan of books set in Louisiana and the Ozarks, so they thought of me when this one was announced. What gripped me from the start was the voice of the characters and the writing. It starts with Lucy Dane talking about her friend being found after having vanished a year prior. “That Cheri Stoddard was found at all was the thing that set people on edge, even more so than the condition of her body.” When Cheri went missing, it hit Lucy hard because her mother had disappeared under similarly mysterious circumstances before Lucy’s first birthday, about 16 years previously. Lucy is determined to uncover what happened to both Cheri and her mother. What she learns is that people sometimes just disappear without a trace, and that the law is too often powerless to discern everything that is happening in a situation.
The Weight of Blood is made unique by its first person narrative from both Lucy and her mother Lila over two separate time frames. McHugh’s writing immersed me in the times and circumstances, bringing with it a full range of emotions. The story is eerily atmospheric, and the reader is made to feel present with each character in every situation. Kinfolk and blood ties are at the heart of this story, and secrets and allegiances suture the narrative together.
The Weight of Blood is extremely impressive writing for any novel, let alone a novel written by a debut author. It may still be too early to claim it as the year’s best, but it has definitely set the benchmark very high for its competition.