If you like: The Lovely Bones * individuality * Alice on Luther
So Much Pretty is the story of events that take place in a small town in upstate New York. They are focused around the disappearance, and later the murder, of a young woman. The story is centered around a family that moves to the town when their daughter is young, seeking to escape the big city life. Their alternative parenting mixed with the influences of isolation help their daughter, Alice, to develop a great intellect with boundless creativity and limited normative reference.
It is never a mystery that murder is at the core of So Much Pretty. From the outset the reader knows that tragic events will occur, and is left to put the pieces together throughout the narrative. This truly enhances the story structure. Knowing that something bad will happen encourages the reader to make assumptions about those events, and Hoffman is quick to turn those assumptions on their heads. The layering of detail in So Much Pretty creates a masterfully intricate course of events, that seems unstoppable once they are set in motion.
Morality is at the center of So Much Pretty. The Pipers raise their daughter to explore extensive philosophical viewpoints, and determine her own sense of morality based in that. This makes her somewhat of an outsider in her school, and does not help the family to be accepted as a part of the town, even after living there close to 20 years. The Pipers view themselves as an enlightened family, transcending what is normal. In some ways, the open nature of their parenting creates a strong willed and eager to learn child, but based on the resulting actions of the story, could be seen as questionable by the reader. The societal norms of Haeden also raise moral questions. People are praised and upheld as model citizens with little logical reasoning. Those who pollute are still praised, and those who care are viewed as radical liberals. The treatment of women is also questionable in the small town. Rather than judged on their own merits, they are subjugated to some relic of the past in which women’s sole purpose is to entertain the whims of men. Throughout the story, the men of the town rarely treat women as equals, and there are few women in key positions in the town. This combination is a dangerous mix of chauvinism and ignorance that makes it difficult for any one individual to see the bigger picture.
If you have never stopped playing pretend, read So Much Pretty.
Hoffman, Cara. So Much Pretty. Dreamscape Media, LLC. Audio edition.