The first time I see her, she is standing at the Fullerton Station, on the train platform, clutching an infant in her arms. She braces herself and the baby as the purple line express soars past and out to Linden. It’s the 8th of April, forty-eight degrees and raining. The rain lurches down from the sky, here, there and everywhere, the wind untamed and angry. A bad day for hair.
The girl is dressed in a pair of jeans, torn at the knee. Her coat is thin and nylon, an army green. She has no hood, no umbrella. She tucks her chin into the coat and stares straight ahead while the rain saturates her. Those around her cower beneath umbrellas, no one offering to share. The baby is quiet, stuffed inside the mother’s coat like a joey in a kangaroo pouch. Tufts of slimy pink fleece sneak out from the coat and I convince myself that the baby, sound asleep in what feels to me like utter bedlam—chilled to the bone, the thunderous sound of the “L” soaring past—is a girl.
There’s a suitcase beside her feet, vintage leather, brown and worn, beside a pair of lace-up boots, soaked thoroughly through.
She can’t be older than sixteen.
She’s thin. Malnourished, I tell myself, but maybe she’s just thin. Her clothes droop. Her jeans are baggy, her coat too big.
A CTA announcement signals a train approaching, and the brown line pulls into the station. A cluster of morning rush hour commuters crowd into the warmer, drier train, but the girl does not move. I hesitate for a moment—feeling the need to do something—but then board the train like the other do-nothings and, slinking into a seat, watch out the window as the doors close and we slide away, leaving the girl and her baby in the rain.
But she stays with me all day.
ABOUT THIS BOOK: A chance encounter sparks an unrelenting web of lies in this stunning new psychological thriller from national bestselling author Mary Kubica
She sees the teenage girl on the train platform, standing in the pouring rain, clutching an infant in her arms. She boards a train and is whisked away. But she can’t get the girl out of her head…
Heidi Wood has always been a charitable woman: she works for a nonprofit, takes in stray cats. Still, her husband and daughter are horrified when Heidi returns home one day with a young woman named Willow and her four-month-old baby in tow. Disheveled and apparently homeless, this girl could be a criminal—or worse. But despite her family’s objections, Heidi invites Willow and the baby to take refuge in their home.
Heidi spends the next few days helping Willow get back on her feet, but as clues into Willow’s past begin to surface, Heidi is forced to decide how far she’s willing to go to help a stranger. What starts as an act of kindness quickly spirals into a story far more twisted than anyone could have anticipated.
MY THOUGHTS: ‘What starts as an act of kindness quickly spirals into a story far more twisted than anyone could have anticipated.’ …how true is that!
I can remember my mother telling me that no good deed goes unpunished. At the time I thought she was cynical. Now I wonder. . . But Mary Kubica uses this saying as the basis for her book, Pretty Baby, and uses it to great effect.
What starts out as a ‘good deed’ by Heidi, who works with the disadvantaged, soon turns into something far less simple as Willow, about whom Heidi’s husband says ‘Willow? That’s not a name. That’s a tree.’, and her baby Ruby trigger long suppressed emotions in Heidi.
‘Twisted’ is an excellent word to describe the plot which, although slow-moving at times, has a satisfying depth to it. There is an underlying miasma, evident from the start, that for me, ratcheted up the anticipation of disaster. I was not disappointed.
The book is split over different timelines, and told from the points of view of Heidi, Heidi’s husband Chris and Willow. Heidi and Chris couldn’t be more different from each other. Heidi doesn’t care about money at all. She is only concerned with the neglected, mistreated, overlooked, ignored, uneducated,
abandoned, forgotten, emaciated, abused, and derelict on this earth. Chris is an investment banker. Money is the main focus of his life and, paradoxically, this is what enables Heidi to pursue her passion. Chris loves his wife, loves that she doesn’t care about money, but the fact that she has brought what he sees as ‘her work’ home, makes him uncomfortable. He fears for the safety of his 50″ TV, and of their teenage daughter Zoe. Yes, there are plenty of moments to make you smile mixed in with the gathering darkness. But, eventually, the storm must hit, the results devastating.
Pretty Baby was so very nearly a five star read. But there was one section of the book that I found confusing. I went back over it several times, but was still left scratching my head. I still don’t have it straight, but it is one minor blip in an otherwise excellent read.
I listened to Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica, narrated by Cassandra Campbell, Tom Taylorson and Jorjeana Marle, published by Blackstone Audio via OverDrive. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
Please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the ‘about’ page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com for an explanation of my rating system.
This review and others are also published on myGoodreads.com page https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1241474695