So Much Pretty
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So Much Pretty

3.27 of 5 stars 3.27  ·  rating details  ·  2,115 ratings  ·  580 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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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
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...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-...more
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...more
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
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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'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...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...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...more
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 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...more
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
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...more
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...more
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...more

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...more
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...more
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 was painful to read. The concept for the book sounded promising and there were several paths this book could have followed that might have been riveting. However, the path Hoffman chose did not work for me.

In addition to the disjointed and clumsily-told story itself, I really do not care for Hoffman's writing style -- there were way too many incomplete sentences and all of the characters seemed so flat and lifeless. The writing feels like Hoffman sat down and pored over each word, but...more
Of the new books published this year, Cara Hoffman's So Much Pretty is my favorite (so far).

As So Much Pretty begins, we learn that a young woman, Wendy White, has been murdered. There are also some initial clues that a high school girl, Alice Piper, is in some sort of trouble, and it seems to be connected, with Wendy's murder.

The novel then jumps back and forth through time, telling us about Alice's parents and their early years together as well as the present time, just after the murder, and t...more
Dear Lord, do you ever start reading a book or watching a movie and just wish you hadn't because you know that where it is going is a terrible, awful place that you don't really want to go, but now that you've started, you feel like you have no choice but to go on and get to that terrible place it is taking you? Well, that's how I felt for most of this book right up until nearly the end.

In theory, I should have loved it. It deals with issues that are of long standing interest to me--violence aga...more
Without focusing on the specifics of the story or general techniques used to tell this story, I'll make a few comments on the writing (which is how a mediocre story comes to life or a great premise for a story is lost due to a lack of writing talent). I found Hoffman's "So Much Pretty" to be written in such a way that the author seems to want to show that she can be clever, but instead it feels overwrought and manipulated. Based on her writing style and allusions to anarchism and environmentalis...more
Cara Hoffman’s So Much Pretty explores the aftermath of a kidnapping and killing in a rural New York town. Told from multiple points of view, the story is meant to enrage us against the violence against women that is perpetuated every day.

I wanted to love this book. It came highly recommended by another book blogger I follow. But while it does tell a compelling story and does highlight the epidemic of violence against women, So Much Pretty fell short of my expectations.

One of the things that mak...more
Something happened to Wendy and the town seems satisfied to ignore it. Everyone, except Stacy Flynn, is willing to go on with their lives. Flynn is the local journalist but an outsider, her story of Wendy’s death causes a chain reaction and Alice is right in the middle.

This murder mystery gripped me right from the beginning. I couldn’t put the book down! There is a lot of questions raised on justice, ethics and the doing things for the good of human kind. It explores prejudices within communiti...more
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
Paulette Livers
Full disclosure: I was led to Cara Hoffman's work by the upcoming 2014 Printers Row Lit Fest. Chicago Tribune journalist Steve Mills will be directing a conversation with Hoffman and myself on June 7 during Chicago's annual celebration of literature. The fiction Hoffman and I write shares much: The rural setting caught in a violent spin, themes of vengeance, denial, the wages of war, and of environmental destruction. Gone are the days of reading for pleasure, if I ever read that way (okay, The M...more
What's most horrifying is what Hoffman didn't write.
Hoffman congers places and people as real and transcendent as Joyce Carol Oates. Hoffman has forged and given voice to a new archetype. Alice Piper redefines the teenage female protagonist. Hoffman applies observational skills on par with Lorrie Moore filtered through a lens of stoic realism to reveal the complex inhabitants and complicated social structures of bleak and beautiful small town America. Poverty, perversions, idealism, and social dysfunction are engines that drive the compelling plo...more
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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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