The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh

four and a half dragons

I was hesitant about reading The Weight of Blood. Partly because my husband felt meh about it and partly because of the setting and storyline. I’ll be the first to admit that I used to have a major prejudice against hillbillies (spl?) or hicks whatever word you’d like to use. But I’ve worked on it and I’m still working on it. This book was like a grittier version of Nancy Drew as she would have been if she grew up in the Deep south. This is not a children’s story.

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Somehow I missed that this book was being told by a mother and daughter separated by about sixteen to seventeen years until I was about thirty or so pages in. Don’t make this mistake. Lila is the mother of Lucy and it’s important to know that.

The Weight of Blood does not shy away from graphic scenes. I did fast forward (audiobook) once because I didn’t feel the need to sit through a particular scene trying not to cry or puke.

I found myself hoping for what couldn’t possibly be true. I didn’t get my wish, but I kind of knew I wouldn’t right from the beginning. Yet still I wanted more for Lila and Carl, more for Lucy.

This is one of the few books that can handle more than two or so POV’s. There were seven or so by the end, but it totally worked. The first half only has two POV’s to let the audience get used to the voice and the setting. The Weight of Blood definitely qualifies as a YA literary mystery. It’s hard to do YA literary fiction well and it is hard to do YA mystery well, but to put them together and still do a great job is top level difficult. Yet McHugh did it.

The characterization was magnificent. I believed in Lucy’s thoughts and fears and ideas. This never crossed the line for me or caused me to be unable to suspend my disbelief. I lived in a town like Henbane (I lived about an hour away from Springfield in the Ozarks just like Lucy), but I was not a native so I know there were all kinds of things that were kept from outsider eyes like mine. Honestly I could have been the Lila of this story. I lived out in the backwoods and I can easily see people burying someone back there.

“It was common knowledge that in the hills, with infinite hiding places, bodies disappeared. They were fed to hogs or buried in the woods or dropped into abandoned wells. They were not dismembered and set out on display. It just wasn’t how things were done. It was that lack of adherence to custom that seemed to frighten people the most. Why would someone risk getting caught to show us what he’d done to Cheri when it would’ve been so easy to keep her body hidden? The only reasonable explanation was that an outsider was responsible, and outsiders bred fear in a way no homegrown criminal could.”

Doesn’t that just give you chills?

*spoiler*

Do you think Crete was going to kill Lucy? Comment below! I think it’s possible that he would have done something to her. Maybe just threatened, but I think someone like that has every chance of killing someone if they get in their way.

I also wonder if Carl will be okay after having to bury his brother. That is some next level anguish and he wasn’t doing so well to start with.

*end of spoiler*

I would recommend The Weight of Blood for anyone with an interest in literary fiction or mysteries and especially anyone who has ever lived in a small town like Henbane. I will absolutely be reading more Laura McHugh books in the future.

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