A few weeks ago I read The Good Girl, by Mary Kubica. It was an excellent read by a debut author. Today I finished her sophomore effort, Pretty Baby. Kubica delivers another astounding read.
Once again, she uses alternating first person POVs, between Heidi, Chris and Willow (Claire). And once again the chapters alternate between present day and points in the past, but the similarities end there.
Heidi and Willow are both unreliable narrators. Heidi because she is on an emotional downward spiral and Willow because much of what has happened was more than her young mind could understand at the time. (Example: thinking her sister, Lily, didn’t have a good life because her adoptive parents had another baby.) She is naïve whereas Heidi becomes delusional.
The story unravels slowly, Willow’s memories giving way to her current situation. It was not predictable from early on. The first act was a bit slow, although not hard to get into. It was just that not much happened. By the second act it began to pick up considerably. Through (often long) narrative passages, we begin to put together Willow’s story, which is far more heartbreaking than portrayed in the beginning. At the same time, Heidi’s behavior comes into question. We’re made aware of her longing for another child early on and know why that can’t happen so initially, her behavior seems rational. But that doesn’t last long. She quickly becomes obsessed with the baby now living in her home and that obsession soon becomes delusional.
The non-relationship between Heidi’s husband, Chris, and his co-worker did not contribute to the overall story and felt like a sub-plot used as a bridge between scenes. It did not aid in Heidi’s breakdown, as having the baby in her home accomplished that on its own.
Daughter Zoe’s attitude was a bit over the top, a little heavy on the whole angst-ridden teen stereotype. Fortunately, she had such a bit part that it failed to cast a shadow on the read as a whole.
One thing that didn’t take away from the overall read, but did slow the story down in spots was several instances of what I can only call misplaced narrative. I did not jot down the pages as I came to them, but on several occasions, there was pages of narrative placed in between a question and the answer. Most of it was internalization, a character falling into a memory brought about by the question, but it seemed to slow down the action/conflict at the moment and would have been better placed as a thought after the interaction was over. That is probably my personal reading taste and again, it didn’t take away from the read
A well-told, interesting and unpredictable story guided by well-drawn characters, a worthwhile read. This was Mary Kubica’s second book, my second Kubica read, and I will definitely look for her next.
Have you read Pretty Baby? Share your thoughts below.