In Mary Kubica’s sophomore novel, Pretty Baby, the voices of a trio of narrators blend and clash to tell the story of three broken individuals trying to make themselves whole again. Readers who sampled Kubica’s debut novel, The Good Girl, already know that she is a talented storyteller who provides deep insight into the troubled souls who populate her novels. With Pretty Baby, Kubica once again shows how a character’s poor decisions can take things from bad to worse.
Heidi Wood is a wife and mother going about her life in the best way that she can. Her devotion to her non-profit job and her family is obvious, but just under the surface lies pain and heartbreak the likes of which would break anyone. Struggling against this shadowy memory is an everyday constant and affects every decision Heidi makes.
Heidi’s husband, Chris, loves his wife but can feel her growing ever more distant with each passing day. The attention and flattery of his attractive co-worker is getting more difficult to resist as he feels his bond with Heidi slipping away. Chris finds himself working more hours and traveling for business thereby placing more strain not only on his marriage but on his relationship with his daughter.
And then there is Willow. After the death of her parents, Willow has found herself subjected to life in an orphanage, foster homes, and now on the streets of Chicago. Because she has nothing else to cling to, Willow latches on to the fairy tale-like stories from her childhood – from Anne of Green Gables to Peter Pan. But now, a casual encounter with Heidi is going to cause her life to take on a whole new direction.
One rainy morning on her way to work, Heidi notices a young homeless girl with a baby struggling to stay dry. Concerned for their welfare, she considers lending a hand, but before she can do so, they board the train and are gone. Unable to stop thinking about them, when another random encounter brings them face-to-face, Heidi quickly offers food and money. However, it is the decision to offer Willow and her child refuge in her family’s home that will forever alter all of their lives.
Pretty Baby is a novel in which every character is hiding a hurt buried deep within. Gradual excavation of these secrets keep readers turning pages as the stakes continue to escalate. Mary Kubica knows how to tantalize readers with what is just under the surface and as each new revelation is exposed, the reader’s hands clench, pulse increases and breath catches. Some of these discoveries are borderline cliché, but because they come from a place of honesty, this is easily forgiven. At least one or two of the revelations will come as a surprise to readers making for a rewarding reading experience. Ultimately, Pretty Baby is a novel about family – family in crisis, family in turmoil, family in transition and family redeemed.
Disclaimer: An e-galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No review was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.