Sunday, March 20, 2011
So Much Pretty by Cara Hoffman
Debut novelist Cara Hoffman takes lots of liberties with our hearts--our fears, our uncertainties, and our repressed desires--in her 2011 novel So Much Pretty. Something happens, finally, in the rundown rural upstate New York town where a journalist slowly accumulates evidence of toxic poisoning by the "family-run" corporate-owned dairy farm that dominates the physical and personal landscape of the town. The town's residents, a little strange but vaguely familiar, are given voice through depositions and interviews recorded during and after an undetermined tragedy, the outline of which we slowly perceive. An unconventional chapter format moves the action forward and backward in time, and from person to person, slowly peeling back our notion of rural placidity to reveal the bloody carcass beneath.
Let me be clear: I can not say I actually enjoyed this book. It was unsettling and disturbing, and we see ugly: sometimes human beings act to give individuals short-term gain at the expense of society's long-term health. It introduced us to folks willing to renounce that unequal equation only to confront it's inescapable impact on their lives anyway. But one can almost hear the hiss of insects in a sunny field, see the glint of sunlight on a cool stream, and feel the bump of butterflies on the walls of a hoop house when dispersed by excited children. These things the author gives us in compensation for the awful truth about two young, pretty, innocent swim team schoolgirls.