So Much Pretty by Cara Hoffman

I have read more books than I would like centered on the disappearance of a woman. Several recent titles that leap to mind are The Fates Will Find Their Way, In Search of the Rose Notes, The False Friend, and Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter. The missing women in these books are almost certainly dead, but we don’t always find out.

So Much Pretty is also about a missing woman, although in this case we do find out what happened and it is not pretty. The woman in question is 19 year-old Wendy White. Born and raised in the rural town of Haeden, New York, where people know their neighbors and believe themselves safe from violence, Wendy is a cheerful, pretty girl who works at the neighborhood tavern.

Her disappearance and ultimate fate galvanizes two local women, reporter Stacy Flynn and high school student Alice Piper into action. They are both disturbed by Wendy’s fate, and even more disturbed by the town’s denial that someone from Haeden could be responsible; locals insist a stranger must have done this–even if the evidence says otherwise.

For me, what sets this book apart from the others is the underlying emotion of the story. It is not grief, or fear, or even anger. It is absolute fury. The kind of fury that reminds you the word was inspired by the avenging deities in Greek mythology who torment criminals. Avenging deities usually portrayed as female.

Cara Hoffman’s ability to harness that fury and not let it overwhelm the story bowled me over. Her writing is controlled and pointed and utterly merciless. For me, this was a tough and at times a painful read. Nevertheless, I haven’t stopped thinking about this book and I will remember it long past the time books usually fade in my memory.

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