So Much Pretty by Cara Hoffman
A Novel

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When she disappeared from her rural hometown, Wendy White was a sweet, family-oriented girl, a late bloomer who’d recently moved out on her own, with her first real boyfriend and a job waiting tables at the local tavern. It happens all the time—a woman goes missing, a family mourns, and the case remains unsolved. Stacy Flynn is a reporter looking for her big break. She moved east from Cleveland, a city known for its violent crime, but that’s the last thing she expected to cover in Haeden. This small, upstate New York town counts a dairy farm as its main employer and is home to families who’ve set down roots and never left—people who don’t take kindly to outsiders. Flynn is researching the environmental impact of the dairy, and the way money flows outward like the chemical runoff, eventually poisoning those who live at the edges of its reach.

Five months after she disappeared, Wendy’s body is found in a ditch just off one of Haeden’s main roads. Suddenly, Flynn has a big story, but no one wants to talk to her. No one seems to think that Wendy’s killer could still be among them. A drifter, they say. Someone “not from here.”

Fifteen-year-old Alice Piper is an imaginative student with a genius IQ and strong ideals. The precocious, confident girl has stood out in Haeden since the day her eccentric hippie parents moved there from New York City, seeking a better life for their only child. When Alice reads Flynn’s passionate article in the Haeden Free Press about violence against women—about the staggering number of women who are killed each day by people they know—she begins to connect the dots of Wendy’s disappearance and death, leading her to make a choice: join the rest in turning a blind eye, or risk getting involved. As Flynn and Alice separately observe the locals’ failure to acknowledge a murderer in their midst, Alice’s fate is forever entwined with Wendy’s when a second crime rocks the town to its core.

Stylishly written, closely observed, and bracingly unexpected, So Much Pretty leads the reader into the treacherous psychology of denial, where the details of an event are already known, deeply and intuitively felt, but not yet admitted to, reconciled or revealed.

About Cara Hoffman

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Cara Hoffman is the author of the internationally critically acclaimed novel So Much Pretty. She has won a New York State Foundation for the Arts fellowship for her work on the aesthetics of violence and its impact on children and has been a visiting writer at St. John's University, Goddard College, Columbia University, and Oxford University, where she lectured on Antisocial Masculinity for the Rhodes Global Scholars Symposium. Her essays have been featured on NPR, Red, Women Under Siege, and Truthout. Hoffman currently teaches writing and literature at Bronx Community College and sings classical music with the St. George Choral Society, Manhattan's oldest choir.
Published March 15, 2011 by Simon & Schuster. 338 pages
Genres: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for So Much Pretty

Kirkus Reviews

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Flynn is on the prowl for the story that will make her name in the field of investigative journalism, and she’s decided that Haeden and its acres of dairy farms are just the ticket to an award.

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Publishers Weekly

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In 1992, Claire and Gene Piper, both idealistic New York City physicians, eschew joining Doctors Without Borders and decide instead to move with their gifted two-year-old daughter, Alice, to upstate Haeden, N.Y., to pursue the simple life in the spirit of the '60s back-to-nature movement.

Jan 10 2011 | Read Full Review of So Much Pretty: A Novel


As the story delves deeper into their family dynamic, readers discover the unorthodox parenting that Claire and Gene have adopted, sheltering Alice from the real world, thus creating a false reality for their very naive and fearless daughter.

Mar 14 2011 | Read Full Review of So Much Pretty: A Novel

We Love This Book

This leads to a hard-hitting article giving an overall view of crimes against woman in New York - but there is no way she could have predicted the catastrophic impact the article has.

Feb 02 2012 | Read Full Review of So Much Pretty: A Novel

Bookmarks Magazine

But the book's eerie finale delivers the most potent message, showing that in any community the ‘responsibility of every intelligent person is to pay attention to the obvious.'" Critical Summary Reviewers of mystery and mainstream fiction alike were drawn to So Much Pretty for Hoffman's el...

Mar 14 2011 | Read Full Review of So Much Pretty: A Novel

The New Yorker

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Mar 28 2011 | Read Full Review of So Much Pretty: A Novel

Spinetingler Magazine

But suddenly when and shortly after Wendy’s fate becomes known, suddenly time seemed to stop as I kept reading and was then unable to — to keep reading, that is — and I nearly stopped breathing for a minute or two.

Dec 14 2011 | Read Full Review of So Much Pretty: A Novel


In the end this is a heroic story with a triumphant ending, written by someone who knows how to hew to the task yet take care of her reader.

Jul 01 2012 | Read Full Review of So Much Pretty: A Novel

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