Thursday, August 18, 2016

"Pretty Baby" by Mary Kubica

Heidi Wood is a bit of a bleeding heart. She takes in stray cats, and works for a non-profit charity helping refugees and those who don't speak English as a first language. Her latest charity case is a teenage mother, Willow. She brings her into her home, much to the dismay of husband Chris and daughter Zoe.

So why is Heidi so intent on looking after Willow and baby Ruby? And what secrets could Willow be possibly hiding that would make Heidi's offer of a helping hand turn out to be a bad decision?


In the end, not a great deal.

I read this book in a day. I have to give it credit for that. It was obviously doing something right. But it really wasn't much of a thriller. Bit by bit, we learn about Willow's past. Bit by bit, we see how Heidi loses her grip on reality. But there are no real surprises. I guess my problem is I keep thinking up much more elaborate, exciting scenarios than what actually gets revealed. I need to stop doing that. "Pretty Baby" is much more psychological drama than it is psychological thriller. There was not enough peril for it to be classed as the latter. I just never quite got the sense that anybody was actually in any danger.

That's a major fail for what is being advertised as a THRILLER.

Seriously, Heidi's neurosis over not having the full family of six kids she wanted is hard to stomach. She has a daughter. Some people don't even have that. Instead, she just bangs on and on and on AND ON about baby Juliet, who had to be aborted, because Heidi had cervical cancer and wouldn't have survived long enough to bring Juliet to term.

Also, isn't it kind of sexist to suggest that women should feel worthless if they cannot give birth? If Heidi wanted a baby so desperately she was willing to take another woman's child, why the fuck couldn't she just adopt? Her husband Chris is shown throughout the book as unable/not willing to object to her do-gooding flights of fancy, so adoption seems like the far more easy, more legal avenue for Heidi to explore. I just find the continuing insinuation in today's society that being "barren" is bad as rather troublesome, a notion this book never attempts to debunk. Heidi is defined entirely by her desire to be a mother, and this is backed up by frequent referrals in the text to Heidi's abortion as "medical waste". Huh? Does Kubica have some sort of pro-life agenda going on here?

In the current boom of psychological thrillers, this is probably the worst I've read. I suspect that's more to do with it being labeled as a thriller, when it clearly never should have been.

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