Initial reaction: Goodness, this was a more emotionally intense read than I was expecting. Read better overall than "The Good Girl", but still with caveats.
"Pretty Baby" by Mary Kubica managed to surprise me as far as the subject matter was concerned. I wasn't all that impressed with "The Good Girl" (for many reasons), but this one actually managed to pull me into the intrigue of the story and had an emotional mystery with complicated circumstances that ultimately came to a head. Unfortunately, coupled with some awkward grammatical errors, this narrative felt incomplete as far as resolutions were concerned. I felt like when I reached the end of the book, it wasn't as satisfying for all the threads that were established within the story.
"Pretty Baby" is told from three perspectives: Heidi, Chris, and Willow. Heidi is a woman who can't help herself when she sees someone or something in need, so it's little surprise to how she's drawn to a young woman and the baby she's carrying in the middle of a train station. The girl identifies herself as Willow, with the baby being "Ruby." Heidi, while not knowing much about the girl or her baby, decides to bring them into her home to care for them. Heidi doesn't consult her husband, Chris, or her 12-year-old daughter Zoe on this inclusion, so it makes for a very awkward situation.
Chris isn't on board with Willow being in the house (alongside being suspicious of her from the get go), so he decides to do his own investigation to see who she is and where she came from. His investigations lend into some rather jarring revelations that unfold as the narrative goes forward. And lastly, Willow's a teen girl who's been through so many horrible ordeals that it's hard not to feel for her and what ends up happening through the course of the story as she narrates between the past and present in her accounts.
The narrative kept me guessing throughout as to what happened between these three individuals to ultimately lead up to the events of the end - but there are some leaps of logic that tested my suspension of disbelief in events. (Did people really believe Heidi would take that many days off of work and not be one bit suspicious of her behavior since it was such a jarring change from her normal? Would Heidi really be so quick to kick Willow out? What happened to Zoe in the scheme of some of these events? Did the narrative just forget her just as quickly as Heidi did with the baby's focus?) I felt the most for Willow despite her actions because they seemed to make the most progressive sense. She really needed help and the system and many individuals ended up failing her and doing her wrong on so many levels, from being put in the care of an abusive, controlling family to being on the run in the streets and her separation from her only biological sister. Heidi and Chris I wanted to throw the book at so many times. I did understand Heidi's past ordeals - which were tragic, but I felt her storyline had the most awkward transitions even for what ultimately ends up happening to her at the end of the narrative. Chris's character is about as much of a douche as say Nick's character from Gillian Flynn's "Gone Girl", but he has his moments of loyalty and resonation as his searches into Willow's past goes forward. Even still, I feel like I never fully saw his character compared to Willow or Heidi.
The ending at least ties threads for one of the characters as to what she ends up doing, but the other two feel like they were left wide open for interpretation, with a couple of side characters (Zoe, for example - and I did feel for her despite her attitudes at times because her parents seemed to neglect her even beyond the point of Willow and Ruby coming to stay with them) being dropped faster than a hot potato in the overarching plot. In the end, I appreciated reading it and liked it a little better than the last read I had from Kubica, but it still left a bit to be desired when I think about the story after it's all said and done. It did hold my attention through the duration though, and it's one that still sticks in my mind after I've turned the final page.
Overall score: 3/5 stars
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Harlequin Mira.