An online marketing consultant, an avid reader of 400 + books a year. Professional reader, reviewer, and blogger. Enjoy ARCs and new releases.
By Mary Kubica
Publication Date: 7/28/2015
My Rating: 5 Stars
A special thank you to Harlequin/MIRA and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
E N T H R A L L I N G !
Master storyteller, Mary Kubica returns with another winner, following award-winning debut, The Good Girl, with one of the most intense, all-consuming psychological domestic suspense thrillers, PRETTY BABY, landing on my "Top 30 Books of 2015", capturing you from page one to the very end!
As I have mentioned previously, on social media, Kubica is "on fire", and if you thought The Good Girl was off the charts, wait until you read PRETTY BABY; will blow you away; ripe for the movie pickings, as well. (my prediction). Note: The Good Girl, also landed on my Top 30 Books of 2014 (movie coming).
From obsessive desire, grief, to PTSD, a complex blurring of fact and fiction; a woman and a young teen, no longer able to determine the difference between fantasy and reality— for a powerful and riveting psychological tale, you will not soon forget.
How far would you go to help a stranger off the street? When the person offering the help, may need assistance, as well. No one is communicating and all the characters are keeping things hidden. Secrets. A web of deceit.
Set in Chicago, The Windy City, we meet the Wood family. Chris, Heidi, and Zoe.
Chris is an investment banker, with a demanding career. He feels he has to work hard, to keep up his family’s lifestyle in Lincoln Park. His wife Heidi works for a non-profit, and their daughter is enrolled in an expensive private school. He has to travel often, with his work, and sometimes with the femme fatale at his office (a flirty colleague). He loves his wife; however, their relationship is not where it was in the earlier days of their marriage. He often questions Heidi’s need to help everyone else, leaving him with the feeling as though the family comes last.
Heidi is the most complex of all the characters. She has it all together on the exterior. She is beautiful, classy, intelligent, has a successful career helping others, plenty of friends, and a great mother.
While on her way to work one morning at Fullerton Station, on the train platform she sees a young teen girl, clutching an infant in her arms. She looks desperate. At the time, it is April in Chicago, temperature in the forties and has been raining daily. She notices the girl is most likely homeless, poor, ragged, needing a bath, clothes, and food. She carries only a worn suitcase. She begins to wonder what this girl is running from? Why is she not in a shelter? Her parents? How will she help her? She cannot be older than sixteen? The baby looks sick and is constantly crying.
Soon the teen and the baby consumes Heidi’s thoughts and they remain with her all day. She cannot get them out of her mind. When she rides the “L” the following day she sees them again. She becomes obsessed with helping. She does not want to be intrusive or offensive; however, she thinks of a way to approach her. She has to help the girl. Possibly take her to dinner to start with. She has no idea of her past.
Heidi has always felt the need to help those less fortunate. From animals to humans, their diet, to the environment. She works with refuges, the poverty stricken, and immigrants. She of all people is fully equipped to help others, through her work; she knows resources and helps those less fortunate to get back on track.
Bighearted, Heidi has experienced some traumatic events in her own life, as she always wanted a large family. She lost her dad, then she herself received the news she had cervical cancer, and happened to be pregnant with her second child. With the devastation of losing her father, her child, and her future hopes of having additional children, she never really dealt with those emotions, hiding behind a mask. Until a baby triggers strong maternal feelings. The baby she lost. Sometime she gets carried away, when helping others, leaving her family to fend for themselves. Their twelve year old Zoe, is spoiled and at this age, the last thing she wants is to have a warm relationship with her parents, or the homeless. Heidi feels a strong desire to nurture.
Willow, the homeless teen will make you want to cry, with her horrific and traumatic life. She lost her much loved mom and dad in a car accident in Nebraska when she was just a child, left with her younger sister, Lily. The state sent them to an orphanage and the younger sister was adopted, separating them. Willow was heartbroken and tried to stay in touch with her younger sister. Willow was sent to live in a foster home. Without giving any spoilers, a very unhealthy environment. A nightmare of abuse from the time she was eight until age fifteen.
When Heidi meets Willow and baby Ruby, much has happened since this time. An emotional and intense meeting of lost troubled souls. Soon Heidi has homeless teen and baby moved into to their small family apartment, without discussing with Zoe or Chris. She knows nothing about the girl or the baby. They could be criminals or minors, but nothing matters except taking care of the sick baby and the girl.
Chris and Zoe are shocked. With the poor conditions from living on the streets; health concerns as well as safety concerns. Chris, cannot believe his wife is bringing this young teen into their home, and disrupting their family life. While Chris is away with work, being tempted non-stop by the femme fatale at work, Heidi has the company of the hot fun guy next door (loved Graham); however, now she is totally obsessed with this baby, and forgets to collect her own daughter from school.
Chris is worried about their safety as she is sure this girl has a story, and may be involved with something illegal. He hires a private detective and gets on Twitter, (funny) trying to find out more about this girl. He has to get these two out of his house. He wants his life back. He is living in a nightmare.
Little does he know how close his wife is to the edge with her own emotions, losing her grip on reality, thinking the baby, the one she lost more than eleven years earlier. She is falling in love with this baby. As we flash back and forth between characters, the multi-layered story builds, and we learn of more secrets-- all the storylines come together for an explosive dramatic ending. What begins as a nice gesture of help, spirals into a twisted psychological encounter spinning out of control for this family.
PRETTY BABY is spellbinding, as I have been holding off reading this one, as knew it would be awesome, wanting to savor until I had uninterrupted time to read – it exceeded all expectations. I was consumed with this book, blowing off work for the day, glued to the pages. The intensity never lets up from the first page to the last, brilliantly plotted, with well-developed characters, vivid settings, mixed with humor-- you feel the intense emotions of each character.
Kubica incorporates one of my favorite writing style formats; three main characters narrating portions of the tale. As you move between each character we hear tidbits from each, (Willow, Heidi, Chris), as readers learn more background. What each character is made of. How they handle stressful situations. Their loyalties, their desires, their dreams. Their fears. She leaves you hanging (in a good way), the events of one character, while moving to another; however, she does this seamlessly, picking back up--making a smooth transition for an absorbing and engaging read.
This is not a predictable read. A complex plot, Kubica handles with precision. Fresh, contemporary, and suspenseful. Many mothers will relate to Heidi. Have read nothing like it previously. Unique. Nothing you expect happens. Twists and turns for a roller-coaster ride. What makes it so profound is the fact, the events could really happen in the real world, making it even more shocking and chilling. You even find yourself rooting for all three main characters at some point.
A winner! Highly recommend for all psychological suspense thriller fans. Mary Kubica, is one of my top favorite authors, and enjoy connecting with her, via social media. Looking forward to many more bestsellers in the future. Read both books. You are in for a rare treat..