Mary Kubica has once again delivered on a suspenseful, psychological thriller with Pretty Baby, which was released in 2015.
It follows her usual style of following multiple main characters and jumping back and forth between their points of view in short chapters, a move that isn’t always executed well by others, but one that Kubica has honed.
In Pretty Baby, we meet Heidi Wood, who spends her days helping refugees and is always trying to do the right thing. Her husband, Chris, travels often for work, and together they have a 12-year-old daughter, Zoe, who is growing up too fast for Heidi’s taste. Heidi always wanted a big family, but life didn’t turn out that way.
By chance, Heidi begins to notice a young girl and her baby sitting at her train stop one rainy week, and then again at her library. The pair is clearly homeless and struggling, which pique’s her maternal instinct and desire to help.
It takes a lot of convincing, but Heidi tries her best to lend a helping hand to the young girl and infant, and then invites them to dinner nearby in a bid to know more about the teenager’s situation. When the pair shows up for free food, Heidi learns the girl’s name is Willow and her baby, Ruby, is four months old. Although Willow claims to be 18 years old, it is obvious she is younger than that physically, and even more so mentally and emotionally. As Heidi does all she can to help the pitiful pair, they wind up living in the family’s apartment, despite the clear distrust of Chris and Zoe.
The story is off to a slow start, but gradually heats up as it follows the before and after storylines of Heidi, Chris and Willow as the full truth comes to life. While it clear everything is not as it seems, Pretty Baby snakes around difficult topics like homelessness, sexual abuse, death, multiple forms of loss, the promise of extramarital affairs, mental illness and more. The end will catch you completely off guard and questioning if you missed warning signs early on, as various lies and truths bubble to the surface.
Although well written, Pretty Baby starts off slower than most of Kubica’s books, and can be hard to read, as difficult topics are visited repeatedly in graphic detail. If any of the issues listed above are triggering for you, this book may not be easy to digest. If you are looking for a tidy, happy ending, you won’t find it here. While I usually read Kubica’s books in roughly 24 hours, I had to pace myself with Pretty Baby so I could give myself space to work through it mentally. 3.5 stars out of 5.
Have you read this book before? If so, what did you think about it?
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