9 reviews

The Weight of Blood: A Novel
by Laura McHugh

Published: 2014-03-11
Hardcover : 320 pages
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21 clubs reading this now
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Recommended to book clubs by 9 of 9 members
For fans of Gillian Flynn, Scott Smith, and Daniel Woodrell comes a gripping, suspenseful novel about two mysterious disappearances a generation apart.


The town of Henbane sits deep in the Ozark Mountains. Folks there still whisper ...
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For fans of Gillian Flynn, Scott Smith, and Daniel Woodrell comes a gripping, suspenseful novel about two mysterious disappearances a generation apart.


The town of Henbane sits deep in the Ozark Mountains. Folks there still whisper about Lucy Dane’s mother, a bewitching stranger who appeared long enough to marry Carl Dane and then vanished when Lucy was just a child. Now on the brink of adulthood, Lucy experiences another loss when her friend Cheri disappears and is then found murdered, her body placed on display for all to see. Lucy’s family has deep roots in the Ozarks, part of a community that is fiercely protective of its own. Yet despite her close ties to the land, and despite her family’s influence, Lucy—darkly beautiful as her mother was—is always thought of by those around her as her mother’s daughter. When Cheri disappears, Lucy is haunted by the two lost girls—the mother she never knew and the friend she couldn’t save—and sets out with the help of a local boy, Daniel, to uncover the mystery behind Cheri’s death.
What Lucy discovers is a secret that pervades the secluded Missouri hills, and beyond that horrific revelation is a more personal one concerning what happened to her mother more than a decade earlier.
The Weight of Blood is an urgent look at the dark side of a bucolic landscape beyond the arm of the law, where a person can easily disappear without a trace. Laura McHugh proves herself a masterly storyteller who has created a harsh and tangled terrain as alive and unforgettable as the characters who inhabit it. Her mesmerizing debut is a compelling exploration of the meaning of family: the sacrifices we make, the secrets we keep, and the lengths to which we will go to protect the ones we love.
Praise for The Weight of Blood
“[An] expertly crafted thriller.”Entertainment Weekly, “The Must List”
“Haunting . . . [a] riveting debut.”Los Angeles Times
“Laura McHugh’s atmospheric debut . . . conjures a menacingly beautiful Ozark setting and a nest of poisonous family secrets reminiscent of Daniel Woodrell’s Winter’s Bone.”—Vogue
“Fantastic . . . a mile-a-minute thriller.”The Dallas Morning News
“Gripping . . . Her prose will not only keep readers turning the pages but also paints a real and believable portrait of the connections, alliances, and sacrifices that underpin rural, small-town life. . . . Strongly recommended for readers who enjoy thrillers by authors such as Laura Lippman and Tana French.”—Library Journal (starred review)
“The sinister tone builds relentlessly.”—The Plain Dealer
“Rich in character and atmosphere . . . This is one you won’t want to miss.”—Karin Slaughter
“Daniel Woodrell better watch his back. . . . Weight of Blood is a tense, taut novel and a truly remarkable debut. . . . A suspenseful thrill ride that satisfies in all the right ways.”BookPage

Editorial Review

Author One-on-One: Karin Slaughter and Laura McHugh

Karin SlaughterNichole Bernier

Karin Slaughter is the #1 internationally bestselling author of several novels, including the Grant County series and the Will Trent series.

KARIN SLAUTHER: You moved to the Ozarks as a child, which must have been a startling change. Iâ??ve always thought outsiders are the best storytellersâ??you see things other people take for granted. Which parts of your own hometown did you incorporate into the fictionalized setting of Henbane? Do you think folks back home will recognize it?

LAURA MCHUGH: The main thing that I took from Tecumseh was the striking landscapeâ??itâ??s beautiful and wild and a bit ominous. I lived near the river, like Lucy, and there was a general store, now long gone, that inspired Daneâ??s. Folks back home might recognize the Rockbridge Trout and Game Ranch (where Carl goes fishing), the East Wind Commune (which was down the road from my house), and The Covenant, the Sword, and the Arm of the Lord (a militia group whose nearby compound was raided by the FBI), all of which are mentioned in passing in the book.

KS: As a southerner, I put the Ozarks on the same plane as the Florida Panhandle or Georgiaâ??s Okeefenokee Swamp: filled with a mixture of lawless rednecks and the salt-of-the earth folks who are trying to navigate around them. I think you capture both sides very well in your story. Were you at all afraid to write about such a complicated region, or did you feel it was a natural extension of â??write what you know?â??

LM: I was certainly hoping not to offend my Ozark friends! Itâ??s fiction, of course, and my version of the Ozarks is colored by my own ideas and experiences. I was an outsider in Ozark County, but it was also my home, and I wanted to play with both sides of that experience. Itâ??s a fascinating place, unlike anywhere else Iâ??ve been.

KS: Youâ??ve said that the story was partially inspired by a brutal crime in Lebanon. Were you afraid that writing about a similar crime would cut too close to the bone?

LM: The real-life victim was taken to a hospital, and thankfully she survived. Cheri Stoddard, the character inspired by the case, was not so lucky, although her experience pales in comparison to what the real victim endured. I lived in Lebanon for several years, and itâ??s a fairly small town where most people know each other. Though I didnâ??t stick to the facts of the real case, I wanted to show that crimes like this can, and do, occur anywhere, and itâ??s scary to realize how easily they can be hidden in our midst.

KS: Every thriller writer always gets asked what scares them. Ruth Rendell famously posited that if she told someone she was afraid of dogs, the next appearance she did, everyone would bring a dog. So, Iâ??ll ask what you donâ??t find scaryâ??in books, TVs, movies. Whatâ??s that one cliché that just makes you cringe?

LM: I love scary movies, but Iâ??m also a big scaredy-catâ??I made the kids and dog sleep in bed with me after I watched Paranormal Activity. The one thing I donâ??t like in a horror film is when the bad guy wears a mask and doesnâ??t speak. Michael Myers pulled it off in the original Halloween, but in general, I think itâ??s much scarier when the villain has a personality and some interesting dialogue.

KS: Weâ??re so saturated in media these days that everyone wants a reference to an actor or actress for the various characters in books. This is an awful question for an author, because one readerâ??s Ryan Gosling is another readerâ??s David Hasselhoff. Still, it has to be asked: Have you thought about who might play the Dane brothers?

LM: I think Michael Rooker would be excellent as Crete. I first saw him in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. His performance was so convincing that Iâ??ve been scared of him ever since. I also loved him on The Walking Dead. And since weâ??re just fantasizing here, Iâ??d cast Joe Manganiello from True Blood as Carl.

KS: A great deal of the suspense in your novel centers around the issue of trustâ??who can Lucy rely on, who is working against her, who might be dangerous. To me, that cuts to the very nature of living in the Ozarks or any small town where you know everyoneâ??s history if not their intent. In your book, the truth seems to take on its own narrative angle. Can you talk a little bit about how you wove the question of trust into the story?

LM: Lucy is coming of age in this story, and she is starting to question things that she had always accepted. Trust is a big part of that. Sheâ??s learning how to follow her own instincts and figure out for herself where her loyalties lie. Itâ??s a difficult but necessary path for Lucy to navigate, a part of growing up.

KS: Your next novel also takes place in a rural setting. With a region such as the Ozarks, there are as many stories as there are pebbles in a river. How do you decide which one youâ??re going to tell next?

LM: When sifting through story ideas, I gravitate to the one with the most emotional pull. My next novel is set in the small Mississippi River town where my grandparents lived, and though the story is not based on real events, it was fueled by my personal connection to the settingâ??specifically, the decay and decline of a place that was once quite grand and close to my heart.


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by Deirdre P. (see profile) 08/13/19

Air plane read

by Laura R. (see profile) 09/03/18

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by Sue A. (see profile) 04/06/17

by Elaine M. (see profile) 08/10/16

  "The Weight of Blood"by Elizabeth E. (see profile) 03/21/16

Mystery has surrounded Lucy's life from almost the moment she was born. Her mother was a newcomer to their small Ozark town when she married Lucy's father. Then right after Lucy's 1st birthd... (read more)

by Chris C. (see profile) 02/18/15

  "The Weight of Blood"by Sylvia M. (see profile) 09/10/14

The story line is engrossing. It is well written and Ms. McHugh effectively shifts from first person of the two main female characters, Lucy and Lila, to third person for the rest of the cast. The topic... (read more)

by Annie Z. (see profile) 09/10/14

  "The Weight of Blood"by Jeannette M. (see profile) 09/10/14

Thought this book was well written, the characters were well developed...the author did a great job of creating a compelling story..while leaving the reader to draw some of their own conclusions!

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