Skip to main content

So Much Pretty by Cara Hoffman

picture of book cover

In the beginning of So Much Pretty: A Novel , Clare and Gene Piper live out a fantasy that my husband I have mused upon: pick up and leave the city for the countryside, raise a child, breathe the fresh air, and be a part of a community.

The Pipers, both doctors, choose Haeden, a farming town in upstate New York, and quickly realize that fitting in is easier said than done. When a local woman is missing and then found raped and murdered, their teenage daughter Alice is forced to reexamine what she believes about responsibility, loyalty and community.

So Much Pretty: A Novel is the book that The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo wanted to be. It's a searing and sadly realistic examination of violence against women and a patriarchal society, all made easier to digest by having a mystery at its center. While Stacy Flynn is a crusading journalist who moves to Haeden to expose the environmental damage of large farming corporations, she is determined to find Wendy White before it is too late. But Stacy Flynn's story, to me, is the least interesting part of So Much Pretty: A Novel , because it feels familar. It's in the character of Alice and the victim Wendy White, along with ancillary characters like Wendy's boyfriend's mother Beverly, where it feels like you are reading something truly original.

This is a terrifying and great book. There's a lot about Cara Hoffman that reminds me of Lionel Shriver, an author that turns society's nastiness into an art form. It absolutely gave me nightmares (I'm not alone in this), and I disagree with the comparisons to The Lovely Bones. That was a book where the tragedy somehow felt transcendent, where a family could still survive after their daughter is raped and murdered. There is nothing nearly as reassuring in So Much Pretty: A Novel . I recommend it, but when you find yourself haunted, don't say I didn't warn you.