Book Review: So Much Pretty – Cara Hoffman

Title: So Much Pretty
Author: Cara Hoffman
ISBN: 9781451616750
Pages: 304
Release Date: March 15, 2011
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Literary Fiction
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 out of 5

Summary:

When Wendy White decides to stay in her hometown after her high school graduation, she is bucking the trend. But she enjoys her job as a waitress and even has a new boyfriend.  But when Wendy goes missing, the small town of Haeden, NY is shocked.

Alice Piper knew Wendy because they had been on the swim team together, even though Wendy was a few years older.  Alice was raised by former doctors who idealistically decided that they wanted to live sustainably on land, though they are unable to sustain themselves in practice without the help of Alice’s uncle. This book is about life in a small town, and the lasting repercussions of choices made in an instant.

Review:

So Much Pretty is a very vague, fragmentary novel, told over the course of Alice’s life.  It’s completely out of order, chronologically; chapters will jump years, even decades, and it’s up to the reader to piece the narrative together.  Additionally, there are many different narrators; though Hoffman helpfully and clearly denotes the year and point of view at the beginning of each chapter, the novel makes for a confusing read.

Though the description above may make the novel seem like a mystery, it isn’t.  That is one element to the overall book, true, but So Much Pretty is much more than that. For one thing, it’s a searing depiction of life in a small, rural town.  The Pipers are idealistic and naïve, and once they settle in Haeden, they realize it’s not what they thought.  The town’s economy is driven by one single dairy farm, rather than individual families trying to make their own way.  They also are never accepted by their fellow townspeople and are met with suspicion.

The novel also focuses on Stacy Flynn, a reporter who is in Haeden trying to make her big break.  She moved to the small town to do a story on the dairy farm, and has stayed in order to find something that will catapult her into the elite level of reporters.  After Wendy’s disappearance, she begins digging into the case, in disbelief that the people in Haeden actually claim that someone from out of town, and not one of their own, was responsible for Wendy’s abduction.

So Much Pretty is an slow novel.  It moves forward at its own pace, and is vague in many places. Some of the storylines seem underdeveloped, and other aspects (such as the relationship between Alice and her cousin Theo) are hinted at, but never fleshed out.  But this haziness gives the story its beauty and grace. While some of the details may be fuzzy, the overall storyline is always clear, and readers are not left hanging by the ending.

This is not a book for everyone. If you’re a fan of beautifully written and disturbing, yet languorous literary fiction, then I definitely think you should pick this book up.  If you’re attracted to it because of the mystery storyline, I’m not sure this is the right novel, though – the pace is slow enough to where you may become frustrated with it, especially with the choppy storytelling. So Much Pretty wasn’t what I expected, but I enjoyed it all the same and am looking forward to Hoffman’s next novel.

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Comments

  1. I’ve read a few books recently that are superficially about a mystery but are really about so much more than that. I like stories that have so many layers, more than just a straightforward mystery thriller.

  2. I’ve read a few books recently that are superficially about a mystery but are really about so much more than that. I like stories that have so many layers, more than just a straightforward mystery thriller.

  3. Oh my gosh! I will have to add this to my TBR list – It is just my kind of book! My name is Wendy and I am from (and still live in) upstate NY!!! How ironic.

  4. Oh my gosh! I will have to add this to my TBR list – It is just my kind of book! My name is Wendy and I am from (and still live in) upstate NY!!! How ironic.

  5. This actually sounds really good. I am glad you brought it to my attention!

  6. This actually sounds really good. I am glad you brought it to my attention!

  7. I am going to be reading this one soon, and this is actually the first review I have seen of it. It sounds like something I would like due to it’s non-linear structure, and I do really like evocative and beautiful writing. Thanks for sharing this one with us today. I found your review very interesting and enlightening.

  8. I am going to be reading this one soon, and this is actually the first review I have seen of it. It sounds like something I would like due to it’s non-linear structure, and I do really like evocative and beautiful writing. Thanks for sharing this one with us today. I found your review very interesting and enlightening.

  9. You write such a wonderful review of a very different book style. I don’t think it’s for me, but I like how you are so honest about it’s positives and negatives. Glad you enjoyed it.

  10. You write such a wonderful review of a very different book style. I don’t think it’s for me, but I like how you are so honest about it’s positives and negatives. Glad you enjoyed it.

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