“But there was something telling about that photograph, I thought; our protective glass frame shattered and now here we were, punctured with microscopic holes that might one day tear. Those holes all had names: mortgage, adolescent child, lack of communication, retirement savings, cancer.”
As a note, a printed galley of this novel was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not effect my opinions in any way.
Mary Kubica’s newest novel, Pretty Baby, was an unexpected surprise for me. I have never read anything by Kubica up until this point, however, I’d heard many great things about her previous release. Pretty Baby has a summary that borders on Lifetime cheesiness at the hand of a mystery-thriller and while it incorporates many elements that parallel movies from Lifetime, the end product is far more chilling and intelligent than you’d expect.
It is a pretty solid release that touches a lot of topics that may be triggering to readers. But for the most part, readers will find themselves easily hypnotized by her haunting story. Mary Kubica doesn’t shy away from the gritty, raw, texture of life and human emotion–there are many moments in which your skin will crawl in the most typical of ways because of the way she portrays it all.
Pretty Baby succeeds in making you feel any emotion at any time once it gets into its groove and that’s what makes it stand out. It’s what makes Mary Kubica a much buzzed about author–she is able to craft a whirlwind of characters and makes it all seem more than paper and stories.
I’m not going to lie to you, though, readers. You have to be patient and let it all boil over first. Pretty Baby took a bit of time to get into its groove; it isn’t until about 80 pages in that things really start going into play and picking up. I had the desire at the start to put it down several times but always came back to it because in spite of its slow pace, it had promise.
Plus, Kubica’s writing–as I’ve said–is wonderful.
I thought the story was good, creepily built and still full of heart. Heidi and “Willow” were both incredibly sympathetic and the entire plot was a heartwarming mess for both of these complex characters. They aren't characters that are only interesting on paper; they are vivid and fleshed out to the highest degree and there's really something about that.
It’s all in the grey area for this one in terms of Good and Bad, and it all focuses perfectly well on illness and human reaction to more than a few things. I enjoyed being in the two’s minds; I felt for them and also couldn’t help but to feel crushed for both women.
The deeper that you dive into their backstories and the further you travel into their hearts and minds, the more you feel for them.
I’m telling you; I was blown away by Mary Kubica’s ability to bring these girls to life and she positively broke my heart and gave me an odd sense of hope.
Willow’s backstory is the one that sticks with me. Her history is so common and so horrifying for somebody of her age that it’s haunting me even after I’ve put the book down. Seeing what happens throughout her memories is so… painful.
And then one day, we didn’t even have that much.
Loss of her family, a hellish foster family and abuse by the hand of her foster father. You feel for her.
And Heidi’s health issues and other downfalls in her life are just as heartbreaking–it tore me apart. I couldn’t believe it. The decisions she had to make, the sacrifices she made, have left a mark on her. They haunt her every day. She’s a survivor. She’s caring. She’s warm. Her problems have begun to eat her alive and there’s nothing more heartbreaking to see her decline for ourselves.
On the day she meets Willow, Ruby in toe, there's just something there--a spark--that makes things all the more meaningful and hurtful.
It’s so striking to me how they are utterly alive and full of so much. It was as beautiful and captivating as it was horrifying and heartbreaking.
All of it. Every single page, every single revelation and memory.
And the way things turned out? I never expected any of it. I’m not sure what I expected. It just wasn’t the turn of events that I got. I mean, part of me did; but other parts of me just held my breath as it unfolded and that’s the sign of a good story.
Pretty Baby’s summary leads you to believe one thing, but what comes of it feels worlds apart from it–there’s so many layers to it psychologically that it creates a massive amount of suspense and tension for its audience.
It’s chaos, it’s heart, it’s mysterious, it’s pain and so much more all in glorious colour for us to witness and feel.
My only complaint was Chris for about 98% of the book. He did improve and by the end, he wasn’t too far in my bad graces anymore; I just didn’t enjoy his narration as well as his wife, Heidi, and of course “Willow”.
He could have been worse, he could have been better.
I do feel the need to point out, once more, that there are many triggering topics in Pretty Baby that will not settle well with everyone. Topics of mental illness, cancer, loss, sexual abuse and so much more are tackled within its pages.
Sometimes it’s mentioned in passing, others it’s descriptive enough that it just won’t be good for readers. I urge you to please look into the topics of what’s explored and find out what your limits are.
Other than that, I thought Pretty Baby was an interesting read and would recommend it to fans of Gillian Flynn’s writing. Mary Kubica’s prose is all her own, but the honest and dark tone she takes on is something that will speak to fans of Flynn.
You should prepare your hearts for all that happens.