Friday Book Whimsy: Arrowood

searchI read and loved Laura McHugh’s debut novel The Weight of Blood, a creepy story that took place in the Ozark region of Missouri. So I was excited to read her newest novel Arrowood: A Novel, and I wasn’t disappointed. It was a page-turner, indeed.

The story is set in an old mansion on the banks of the Mississippi River in Iowa that was home to the Arrowood family for generations. So how do you get any better than a mystery set in a creepy old house?

Arden Arrowood was a young girl when her toddler twin sisters disappeared from the mansion on her watch, never again to be seen or heard.  Now, 20 years later, she has inherited the mansion upon the death of her estranged father. At loose ends in her life, Arden is happy to return to the mansion, which she feels was the only place where she really felt at home in her life.

But the house brings back the memories of that day, and she feels compelled to try to solve the mystery of what happened those many years ago. Where did the pretty twin girls go?

I mentioned in the first paragraph that The Weight of Blood took place in the Ozarks. The reason that is even important is because the author is masterful at making the setting part of the story. The town where the mansion is located is an actual town in the southeast tip of Iowa, barely within the state boundaries. I presume her depiction is realistic. It is easy to envision the line of old mansions lining the riverbed as the author so ably describes. That alone makes the story worthwhile.

But the plot is what the reader really sinks his or her teeth into. The story challenges the reader to think about what we really remember in our lives. It’s like the childhood game where one person whispers something into someone’s ear and by the end of the line of children, the story is completely different.

I loved this book and the characters. The ending, while somewhat surprising, had a realistic ring to it when the reader thinks back to the tips we read along the way.

Great, if somewhat spooky, book.

Here is link to the book.

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Friday Book Whimsy: The Weight of Blood

imgresMysterious characters, a large helping of suspense, dark family secrets, and a gritty southern rural setting – all elements that will call out to me and set me to reading a book. Laura McHugh’s debut novel The Weight of Blood has all of those elements and more.

The fact that the book was set in a poor area of the Ozarks in rural Missouri immediately reminded me of Daniel Woodrell’s creepy novel-made-into-a-movie Winter’s Bone, a book I liked 100 percent because of the setting. The Weight of Blood had the same sort of sinister atmosphere.

Lucy Dane’s mother apparently walked into a cave and disappeared when Lucy was a baby. Her disappearance has haunted both Lucy and her father Carl for almost two decades. How could someone who people say so loved her daughter abandon her?

Many years later, Lucy’s friend Cheri, a teenager who most believe is developmentally disabled, is found murdered and dismembered. Reminded of her mother, Lucy undertakes her own investigation. The harder she works at finding the truth, the clearer it becomes that her own family has its own sinister secrets. Running into roadblock after roadblock from friends and family alike, it becomes clear that lots of people know more than they are saying, and there are things she may not want to learn. Only her friend Daniel will help her find out the truth.

McHugh’s writing is good, and kept me reading into the night. At first glance, her characters seem to be black hat/white hat, but as the novel progresses, some of the gray begins to display itself. These are characters you don’t easily forget, even after the book is finished. McHugh paints a clear picture about what it’s like to live in a small town where everyone knows everyone else and blood is thicker than water.

The ending held little surprise, but was satisfying. I would recommend this book for the setting and the memorable characters, but only if you are in the mood for somber reading.

Here is a link to the book.