Tuesday, March 15, 2011

New Today: So Much Pretty by Cara Hoffman

Booklist would seem to have cemented interest in So Much Pretty (Simon & Schuster) when they described Cara Hoffman’s debut novel as a “mixture of The Lovely Bones and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.”

So Much Pretty is like neither of those books, except that it’s very good and very hard to put down, as both of those were, as well. If we’re forcing comparisons, I’d add in a third, just for good measure: Daniel Woodrell’s 2006 novel Winter’s Bone (yes, that Winter’s Bone) for the hardscrabble grit of Smalltown, USA. In this case we’re in upstate New York rather than the South, but you get the point: there is little glamor and a great deal of pain not far below the surface in Hoffman’s fictional town of Haeden.

Hoffman knows this beat. A former investigative reporter, in 2000 she received a New York State Foundation Art Fellowship for her writing on the aesthetics of violence and its impact on children.

Violence and children are pretty much the topics here, when a high school girl goes missing and a whole town might -- wittingly or unwittingly -- play a part in the concealment of the perpetrator. So Much Pretty looks searingly at the questions of justice and revenge. Many readers will find some of the answers shocking.◊

Aaron Blanton is a contributing editor to January Magazine. He’s currently working on a book based on his experiences as an American living abroad.

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