Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica (Book Review)

pretty baby
Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica is one of those rare stories that is nothing like what I expected and takes me into a place and a sense that is at once incredible and completely unnerving. A complex tale of damage, pain and the unending emotional and mental tragedy of grief.

“…The doctor used the word hysterectomy. I lay in bed at night when I should be asleep, considering that word, what it means. To the doctor, to Chris, it was term, a medical procedure. To me it was carnage, plain and simple. The annihilation of Juliet and Zach, Sophia and Alexis. The end of that vision of shabby chic comforters and homeschooling.
But of course, by then Juliet was already gone, a simple D&C procedure that was anything but simple. There was no way to know whether or not she was a girl-that’s what the doctor said, what Chris restated time and again, that there was no way to know-and yet I knew with certainty it was Juliet who was discarded as medical waste, right along with my uterus, my cervix,parts of my vagina…”

Heidi Wood sees the girl on the train platform, clutching an infant, in the pouring rain. Heidi has always been a very caring woman. She works for a nonprofit organization and takes in stray cats. She watches the girl as she boards the train. The next day the girl is there again. She is homeless and starving, and Heidi knows, that the baby is starving too. Heidi cannot just do nothing. She offers the girl her coat and some food, but even that does not seem to be enough.

“…The front door opens and there they stand like two drowned rats. There’s a baby in Heidi’s arms, a scent far worse than cumin wafting from the girl. I rub at my eyes, certain I’m hallucinating, certain my Heidi would never bring a homeless girl into our home, into the home where her own daughter lives and breathes…”

Heidi brings the girl Willow home with her, ignoring the protests of her husband Chris and her own daughter Zoe. Chris is traveling quite a bit for work and Heidi and Willow are left on their own. Chris is concerned about the safety of his family and researches Willow’s past. What he finds feels him with fear. But what is happening in his home is not what he expects. His daughter Zoe is left at practice as Heidi is obsessed with Willow and the baby. Forgetting time and again to pick up her own child from practice and school. Heidi, who wakes at night to look in on the baby. Lifting the sleeping child into her arms and cradling her. Heidi who begins to convince herself that she needs to protect the baby, that only she can care for it. Heidi who begins to believe that everyone poses a threat to the baby. Even its mother Willow.

I have tried very hard here not to give away too much about the novel. This is one to be read and enjoyed for yourself. Kubica tells the tale in a three person narrative. Heidi, Willow and Chris. In Willow’s narrative we learn of her painful and abusive past. Of her need to escape from the reality she was forced to endure and the of the dead and bloodied bodies that were left behind. Chris is at a crossroads of loving his wife and battling the desire of another woman. He takes care not to upset Heidi whose suspicions and insecurities feed his loneliness. And Heidi, whose grief and trauma have never left her. They were just hidden. Buried beneath a facade of care and love. She is a good mother. She deserved the opportunity to be a good mother.

Pretty Baby is a tense emotional thriller that will have fans of Girl on the Train and Dark Places rejoicing. Kubica is carving out her place on the book shelves of modern day emotional thrillers and she is doing it with good stories and damn good writing.

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