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So Much Pretty

3.27 of 5 stars 3.27  ·  rating details  ·  2,657 ratings  ·  669 reviews
The Pipers are a family built on optimism. Claire and Gene moved with their precocious, beguiling daughter Alice to Haeden, New York for a fresh start. In doing so, they unwittingly re-write the story of her life. Wendy White has strong roots in Haeden, a late-blooming young woman, mindful of family and home. Her story has a beginning and an end, but is missing the most im ...more
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Published March 15th 2011 by Dreamscape Media
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thank goodness for paul tremblay.

i went to a reading last week to celebrate his wonderful A Head Full of Ghosts and to bask in the glory of hearing him read aloud as the "me-character." also on the bill was cara hoffman, who read a bit from Be Safe I Love You and then had a little onstage conversation with paul about books and process and all that good stuff. and while i own both of her novels, i'd never read her. the stories had both intrigued me, so i grabbed them when they c
This was not an easy book to get into. There are multiple points of view as well as several time frames so the reader must pay strict attention in order to move with the story. A girl disappears. A reporter thinks she has an idea about the disappearance but she is from "away" and is disregarded. An unworldly girl genius, raised by a pair of back-to-the-earth doctor parents and their college friends also knows something. Are they really the only ones who know what is happening, or are they the on ...more
Julia Miele Rodas
There's no way around it--this is a horrifying book. It came to me as a loan from Marianne Pita, the Chair of the English department at Bronx Community College, who was duly impressed by the talent of author Cara Hoffman, who is a part-time member of our department. But, while I share Marianne's admiration, I also found the book appalling.

A word here about the writing: Hoffman is certainly gifted and the book certainly merits the praise which it has earned. It is everything the back jacket says-
Elizabeth Scott
Wow! This was know, it's been days since I've read this and I still catch myself thinking about it.

The basic plot is that a young woman disappears in a small town and when her body is found, everyone seems to think a stranger/drifter killed her, except for two people, a local (and newcomer) reporter, and Alice, who was one of the most fascinating fictional teenagers I've ever read about. (It's Alice who really caught me--days later, I still don't know if what she did was because she wan
Or so much drek! I've read some great reviews of this "novel" and was excited to read it. The excitement ended when the book started. Did I read the same book as these rave reviewers? I hardly think so.

I read a quote (not sure what its from but I found it on Amazon) from Hoffman..."as a journalist, I've always thought 'why' was the most important question". On this, at least, the "author" (DO NOT QUIT YOUR DAY JOB!) and I agree. Why indeed? Why did I waste money on this book? Why did I waste ti
I don't know how this book got through the editing process. Didn't anyone bother to tell Cara Hoffman that multiple narrators in a shifting timeline is a bad idea? Didn't her editor tell her that her didactic prose and endless direct characterizations are cheap shot short cuts for doing the real work of writing? How about writing a chapter that is about real action rather than posturing? Or if you are going to put two 'types' of people against each other, in this case simple locals versus educat ...more
I may not like postmodern art but I love postmodern literature. Give me multiple perspectives, jumping around in time, and fragments to put together and I am a happy person. This novel had all of these and then it also had the cherry on top... it really surprised me.

This book was a recommendation from John Warner, aka the Biblioracle, based on the following five books I had previously read and enjoyed: number9dream by David Mitchell, Skippy Dies by Paul Murray, Dark Places by Gillian Flynn, The
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I'm really struggling to find the words for how I feel about this book. I'm also struggling to write a review without first going back and reading the book a second time, but I'm going to try to give you an honest review from my first read because I may feel different after I've put the story all together.

A key to this book is that it is contemporary fiction. It's written in a style that I can only relate back to the movie Momento, except the story is being told from the point of view of dozens
Neely Hudson
I'm really torn between four and five stars. This is the best, most intelligent and thoughtful, suspense novel that I've read in a long time... maybe ever. I love the big questions that Cara challenges us with: are "progressive" ideas and opinions really progressive? Can we make a big enough impact carrying on in our own quiet ways, or do we need to DO something BIG to make changes... This book also delighted me because it wasn't absolutely predictable. Some of the suspicions I had of the charac ...more
switterbug (Betsey)
Imagine you are the "outsider" and reporter, Stacy Flynn. You came to this farm town in upstate New York via Cleveland to find the "big-picture" story on rural waste dumping here in off-the-grid Haeden. You're twenty-four, alert as a cat, keen to pounce like a tiger, with Malcolm X glasses, a postmodern flair, and a Mencken regard. You've won an award in the big city, and now that the Rust Belt stories are waning, you seek the newly pelted. But after several years of living among wind-battered f ...more
I've got some distance now because I finished this on Tuesday, but goddamn, this book was hard to read. I read a lot of crime novels & I don’t think I’m a shrinking violet regarding fictionalized violence, so I didn’t expect to cry & be so sick to my stomach that I had to put the book down when I found out what was done to Wendy White, missing waitress, but there I was. Hoffman hit me hard in the face by making Wendy a human being & then creating characters who dehumanized her so com ...more
Mal Warwick
Unbearable suspense and extraordinary characters in a novel that grapples with today’s greatest ethical challenges

I can’t get Alice Piper out of my head. Here she is, dashing off a 7th grade paper in English prose worthy of a graduate student. There she is again, fearlessly leaping from bar to bar on the high wire in her parents’ barn. Still again, she is deeply engrossed in a probing philosophical discussion with her parents at age 6. Alice is a bundle of special gifts, a phenomenon.

On its most
There was so much potential in this book. Chapter starters like, "I have her baby teeth saved in a box in my dresser." But the book never went anywhere. With the story told by the POV of a dozen characters, told through narrative, newspaper articles, diary entries, audio transcriptions and interviews... the story is so jarring and lacks flow. It takes effort to read this, akin to a textbook, but you're not learning anything. It isn't even escapism that rewards you for your hard work, because the ...more
I have read more books than I would like centered around the disappearance of a woman. Several recent titles that leap to mind are Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter; The Fates Will Find Their Way; and The False Friend. The missing women in these books are almost certainly dead, but we don’t always find out for certain.

SO MUCH PRETTY is also about a missing woman although in this case we do find out what has happened and it is not good. For me, what sets this book apart from the others is the underl
I was about a third of the way through this debut novel by Cara Hoffman before I knew if I even liked it. The story seemed disjointed, jumping around through time over a ten year period and switching perspectives between several characters, many of whom didn’t appear to even be connected. Gradually, as the stories overlapped, I realized what Hoffman was doing. By presenting these moments out of chronological order, without focusing on one set of characters or one clear narrator, she shows the re ...more
I found this book absorbing and interesting, but I consider it only half complete.

Unfortunately, while the author seemed to have a good sense for what makes "outsiders" move to the country and get off the grid, she remains clueless about rural communities themselves.

The book turned somewhat polemical about violence against women. The author offered no insight about the perpetrators and their families. They were just one-dimensional bad guys. The book contained a lot of condescension toward rur
I first saw this book reviewed on and immediately added it to my "To-read" list. The premise of the book is fascinating and "So Much Pretty" definitely lived up to my expectations.

The book was a little difficult to get into. I wasn't quite sure where it was leading, but when a story involves the disappearance of a pretty girl in a small town - it is bound to be an important story. That is what I would call "So Much Pretty," an important story.

Some of the characters are ecccentric, just
So Much Pretty is, without a doubt, one of the best books I've read in the past five years. I have not stopped thinking about it since I read it. Every other book pales in its shadow.

But really, Katie Coyle at The Female Gaze says it best: "The dead girl in So Much Pretty is nearly as much of a cipher as any other, but the novel speaks for her, champions her. It says, like all girls, this one was flawed, but loved. She did not deserve to live with this anger, this fear. Like all girls, she did n
Compelling. Frightening. I've seen reviews stating the story is completely unrealistic, unbelievable. I would really hope that this is an unrealistic story. However, I found it inconceivable that 3 women could be held captive in a house in urban America for a decade until this week. One of the most compelling elements of this book (for me) is that you get a sense of what is coming and can't believe it will be so. The thrill is in the telling and seeing how events unfold, how it can be that an en ...more
this book is hard to review I think without giving anything away!! it was hard to get into and then BAM I cant put it down, I didn't care for the date and character jumping or the sort of open-ended ending. I personally like my endings in a neat little box with a pretty bow :) besides all that, I did enjoy it, although it scared the shit out of me, as a woman it makes you think about everyone around you & the fucking horrible things people are capable of
Julie Smith (Knitting and Sundries)
This review first appeared on my blog:

This novel was inspired by a real case that the author encountered as a police beat reporter.

Told in alternating POV's, we meet Claire Piper, her husband Gene, and their daughter Alice, a happy girl who was a leader in her school and in life. They live in the small community of Haeden, where the Pipers lead a rather unconventional "back to earth" life, given that they are both Harvard-educated, with medical degrees th
Dawn Vanniman
I received this book from the publisher in return for an honest review.

SO MUCH PRETTY is a mystery and a thriller. But it's not the kind where the events could never happen. It's the kind where you hope they never happen to YOUR family, but we read about them all too frequently. This novel is not YA, but still something I can see YA readers picking up to read as they get older. I would recommend this one only for the oldest of the group. There's swearing, sex, violence and general human atrociti
Rebecca Martin
The feeling of doom that hung over this book from the very beginning made the reading a heart-in-throat kind of experience. The events are supposed to take place in upstate NY, though I read it in Iowa and could very readily translate the portrayal of "family" (now corporate) farms and decaying small towns into that environment. This book has a lot to say about country and city, ideals and realities, and--most affectingly--about the disposable nature of women in a society that treats them as und ...more
Re-read for me. Let's see if it hits me as strongly the second time as the first.

Updated: The first time I read this, it was a solid four. I think that stemmed from the fact I was entirely freaked out by the book itself. It's a dark topic, but without a doubt, So Much Pretty is entirely amazing. What would you do? What if this was your child? Those are the kinds of questions it makes a reader ask. From multiple spectrum it makes you ask this. From the killer's side, from the side of the girl wh

I didn't get into this book nearly as much as I thought I would. There were just too many perspectives and too much going on for me to really get into it. I don't have the book with me to go into as much detail as I would like to, but let's just say it wasn't all that gripping.

I did enjoy Alice, as a character, but I didn't feel for her as much as I would have liked toward the end of the novel. Plus there seemed to be a lot of information m
After all my complaining and threatening to throw things I myself am surprised I actually gave this 4 stars. What can I say? It got better. I'm so glad too or I probably would of thrown it across the room or out a window. I really enjoyed how it was written. Although the parts from Claire and Gene made me want to stab myself in the eyes with a fork they were so boring I realize that they were necessary. If you can make it to the halfway point of this book it does get better and is also a tad bit ...more
"They are looking for someone with bond or dark brown or black hair. Someone with blue or maybe brown or green eyes. She could be five foot six or five-eight...She may be aloof. She may be sensitive and drawn to helping people. She is on her own and likely broke, and might be reliant on those she doesn't know. As you are well aware, it is easy for a woman who fits this description to disappear."

The two page prologue of "So Much Pretty" is so artfully written that I fell in love with the author,
The more jaded you think you are, the more unexpected things come up to surprise you.

I had to DNF So Much Pretty because, aside from the title itself,there was nothing pretty about it. I only read 55 pages, and yet that gave Cara Hoffman sufficient time to slander the rich and privileged in a dozen different senseless ways, and also mention gay people on the most demeaning way possible.

According to at least two of the many POV narrators in the book (of which there are many, who also make constan
This book was too f***ing weird. I didn't understand half of the political garbage & the ending didn't even seem plausible. I almost quit reading after the first 50 pages and I SO should have. I only finished it because I wanted to know what happened to Wendy & you never even really find out. Yikes.
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Cara Hoffman is the author of the critically acclaimed novel So Much Pretty and has been a visiting writer at St. John’s, Columbia and Oxford Universities. Originally from upstate New York, Hoffman currently teaches writing and literature at Bronx Community College, sings with the St. George Choral Society, and lives in New York City.
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“Sometimes she felt she had fallen asleep inside herself while she was wide awake working.” 9 likes
'A man can only take so much pretty walking back and forth in front of him.' He said pretty like he meant something else.” 6 likes
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