“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” (Edmund Burke)
The Weight of Blood, by Laura McHugh, was a pleasure to read from start to finish. This is not to say that the subject matter was pleasurable. Many of the plot lines dealt with situations that, although all may be aware happen, are easier to ignore. It was a small town society’s willingness to do this that was explored in excoriating detail.
The story is told over two time periods, with each chapter progressing through a different character’s perspective until the tales merge for the satisfying, if grim, denouement. Events kick off when a stranger arrives in a remote town that copes with transient tourists but will not welcome incomers who wish to stay. This antipathy enables the grisly events that unfold, and it soon becomes clear that protecting established families counts more than obeying the law.
The book lays bare the damage that can be caused when human weaknesses are normalised, accepted or simply overlooked for the sake of maintaining the status quo. With limited expectations for their future, the residents see as inevitable that men will act as they wish, and that it is easier to look the other way. When accidents happen they are cleaned up, gossiped over but rarely investigated. Truth is not something that is to be faced if it will cause trouble for those who must continue to live alongside the perpetrators. Asking too many questions is discouraged for fear of the fallout.
Into this web emerges a young girl, born and raised in the heart of the town, who has lost her friend and her mother in circumstances that nobody seems willing to discuss or explore. Determined to uncover what has happened, she enlists the help of a friend, and together they start to unravel a generation of secrets and unacknowledged truths.
From the first chapter I was hooked. The pace of the novel was perfect, the unfolding tale never ceasing to engage. Every word earned its place, moving the plot along effortlessly. Such seamless writing demonstrates the skill of the author, keeping this reader engrossed for the entire three hundred pages.
The tale was compelling and thought provoking, leaving me questioning how far I would go to help a stranger when rocking the boat could bring down an accepted way of life. It got under my skin and I am glad that it did.
This is quality writing, but more than that, it is story telling at its best.
My copy of this book was supplied gratis by the publisher, Hutchinson, via My Independent Bookshop rewards.