So Much Pretty

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.
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  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 304 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781451616774 | 
  • March 2011
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The Truth Behind SO MUCH PRETTY

Cara Hoffman delves into the inspiration behind SO MUCH PRETTY, her novel addressing the most disturbingly tangible issues of present day femininity and humanity.

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Prologue

THEY ARE LOOKING for someone with blond or dark brown or black hair.

Someone with blue or maybe brown or green eyes. She could be five foot six or five-eight. Her hair could also be red, could be an unnatural color like pink or white.

It is likely she weighs between 110 and 140 pounds and may have a scar or bruise on her throat.

She would be working somewhere unseen. Working as a waitress or secretary or laborer. She could be a student. There is a strong possibility she would have a nontraditional job. That she’s transient, works agriculture or construction or second shift.

She has... see more
Claire

ALL THREE OF us walked in our sleep.

Later, when I would think about what happened, I would tell myself she was sleepwalking. Acting out a nightmare. Sleepwalking ran in our family. Dreaming while walking. Dreaming while talking. I know this is not an answer. The real answer is too simple.

Did she have health problems? Was she low–birth weight? Did she have headaches? Self-destructive behavior? Sudden changes in grades or friends? No.

Alice was a remarkably consistent soul. Healthy and athletic like her father. At home wherever she was. Happy at school and happy with all the things outside of... see more

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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for So Much Pretty includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Cara Hoffman. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


INTRODUCTION

So Much Pretty is a novel about family, community, and storytelling. The Pipers are a family built on optimism and on a deep-rooted commitment to community. Claire and Gene have moved with their precocious, beguiling daughter, Alice, to Haeden, New York, for a fresh start and to give Alice the freedom and opportunity they have always wanted for themselves. In doing so, they will unwittingly rewrite the story of her life. Stacey Flynn is a reporter, both a seeker and teller of stories. It is Flynn, gritty, relentless, and ultimately reckless, who will piece together the mysterious disappearance of a local girl, Wendy White—rebuilding her existence from all available fragments and forging a path to the truth.

QUESTIONS AND TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION

1. The story’s prologue is an ominous introduction. How does this dark overture—focused on searching out something that isn’t easily found— frame the story?

2. Describe Claire and Gene Piper’s relationship. How did see more

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