The question at the center of Laura McHugh's excellent debut novel The Weight of Blood is how much strain a familial relationship can withstand. Does blood really run thicker than water? Can a deep bond maintain itself in the face of secrets? Of abuse? Of murder? The narrative opens on a stark scene: A young woman's dismembered body is discovered in a hollowed out tree aside the river in Henbane, Missouri. The fictional town is deep in the Ozarks. It is a place where few leave and even fewer arrive. Outsiders are regarded with suspicion, even though the townspeople themselves are more worthy of a closer look.
Lucy Dane is a smart 17-year-old with plans to escape Henbane by way of college. The dead woman was Cheri, Lucy's neighbor and friend, a mentally disabled girl who disappeared a year before her body was found. Troubled by her friend's death, Lucy sets out to investigate the unsolved murder. At the same time, she begins to uncover details about her own mother's mysterious disappearance soon after Lucy's birth.
The chapters of the first section of The Weight of Blood switch narrators, with Lucy chronicling the present day and her exotic mother, Lila, providing details about the secret horrors she endured before she vanished. Later sections feature chapters from the perspectives of Lucy's father, uncle and other townspeople. The structure is reminiscent of Gone Girl and, like that mystery, this one is also a page-turner.
McHugh succeeds in crafting a complex mystery that unravels with details so repulsive, the reader hopes they aren't true. Where she excels, though, is in character development. Everyone from Lucy to her father to the diabolical people responsible for Lila's and Cheri's ruin leaps off the page in full color. The stark realness of the story's players is nearly as shocking as the mystery itself.
An outsider, Lila Dane had few friends in Henbane. During her short time in the small town, she reached the highest of highs and absolute lowest of lows. Hers was a tale so tragic, it left a bad taste in my mouth. Inspired by her love for iced tea muddled with mint, I made a drink that washes away any bad taste and also pays homage to Lila.
LEMON-MINT ICED TEA
For the tea
- 4 cups water
- 1 mint tea bag
- 5 black tea bags
For the lemon simple-syrup
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- juice of half a lemon, or to taste
For the tea
Fill a 1 quart glass bottle with 4 cups water. Add all teabags and place in fridge.
After 24 hours, the teabags will have infused the water. Taste for strength and flavor. If mint flavor comes through strong, remove mint teabag and leave black teabags.
After another 24 hours, remove black teabags. Tea is now ready to serve.
For the lemon simple syrup
In a medium saucepan, bring one cup water and one cup sugar to a boil. Add lemon juice and stir. Cook until mixture turns clear.
Allow syrup to cool, then stir into iced tea to sweeten.
Source: I received The Weight of Blood as a free e-galley through NetGalley.