Before starting Pretty Baby, I had heard some really good things and read some rave reviews, which meant that whilst I really wanted to read it, I was also very nervous that I would be disappointed. In fact, I’ve owned the book for a few months now and kept putting off reading it. Once I did crack the spine though, it turns out my fears were just that because from page one the book grabs you and doesn’t let you go.
It starts with Heidi seeing a young girl with a baby standing on the train platform on a very rainy morning. They look bedraggled and in need of food and shelter. She hesitates, but gets on the train. Then she sees them again, and again, and the need to help becomes so strong she can’t help herself and – despite the objections of her husband and daughter – she brings them home.
The girl, Willow, seems fragile, scared. She won’t talk about her past, where she has come from, how she ended up living on the streets, and Heidi doesn’t push. She doesn’t want to know because she is starting to love having the baby, Ruby, in their house. Ruby’s needs and unconditional love are welcome distractions from the angst of her teenage daughter Zoe and the absence of her husband Chris who seems to be constantly travelling for work.
Whether Willow likes the interest Heidi is taking in her daughter, or is truly what she seems – a lonely, homeless, girl in need of love herself – is another matter and Mary Kubica keeps you on the edge of your seat as you try to figure out just who she is and if she is a danger to the family who have taken her in…or if they are a danger to her. Told in alternating chapters from the perspective of Heidi, Chris and Willow, it’s like a jigsaw you have to put together.
I really like this style of storytelling and found this story in particular quite compelling. It was well written, with good pace and each character seemed like their own person with their own voice. There were plenty of twists and turns and second guessing and, whilst I have to say I wasn’t too keen on any of the characters in the beginning, I had started to care about all of them by the end and the predicament they found themselves in. No one ended up being quite who I thought they were. It all made for a great book and one I kind of feel I can sum up in one word – it’s how I felt when I’d finished – “wow!”. Loved it!