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  • Writer's pictureMandy McHugh

What's Done in Darkness, Laura McHugh: A Five-Star Review

Literary social media is my favorite social media. I don't know where I'd be without Twitter and Insta when it comes to finding my favorite contemporary authors. McHugh's work frequently deals with gritty situations told by authentic characters, a trait I can't get enough of. The Weight of Blood is still one of my favorite titles, so I couldn't wait to get started.

Five years ago, Sarabeth was abducted from the side of her family's farm stand. She was held in darkness and mysteriously released days later, but no one believed her story. Now, forging a new life, Sara finds herself thrust into the past when another girl goes missing under similar circumstances. Farrow wants her to assist with the investigation, but doing so may bring her closer to danger than she's ever been before. I loved this book. Told in alternating past and present perspectives, this is really a character study in recovery, faith, and identity. Sarabeth is not trying to be a hero, even though heroic feats are asked of her. She doesn't want fame, recognition, or vengeance. She's not on a mission to bring the person who hurt her to justice. What she wants is peace, to be able to exist in her life without having to triple check locks and distance herself from every person who attempts to get to know her. So often in this genre, we see the bigger, climactic moments: scorned women overcoming obstacles to murder the bad guy. Intricate plots to teach lessons in morality. Revenge, in all its forms. And while there is that desire for answers, Sarabeth's fortitude is much more accessible, and for that reason, I found her to situation to be simultaneously endearing and terrifying. She could be anyone--this could happen to anyone--and safety is a construct. This is more than just a suspenseful tale of the link between abductions. McHugh's commentary on social issues really struck me in the gut. From poverty to gender roles, we get a stark view of this southern Arkansas community. The examination of religion and its role in shaping not only Sarabeth's identity, but her sister's, mother's, father's, and brother's, is honest and conflicted. The same beliefs that bring joy to some repress others; and what some readers might interpret as "extreme," others will read as normal. Mundane. Part of life. I think this aspect, the polarizing normalities, will be a key discussion point for many readers--and I am invested in that analysis. Overall, What's Done in Darkness is a taut, smart, read with a bleeding heart. Out in June, add this to your TBRs now. Big thanks to Random House and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for honest review consideration.


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