Cover Image: Safe and Sound

Safe and Sound

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Member Reviews

SAFE AND SOUND by Laura McHugh was a thrill ride that went so fast, I’m still trying to catch my breath.

Six years ago, beloved cousin Grace was babysitting for 12 year old Amelia and 11 year year-old Kylie when she was apparently abducted after a violent struggle in the home. The girls wanted nothing more than to escape their small town life and the memories of that long ago trauma. With Kylie‘s high school graduation approaching Amelia works extra hours in order to save enough money to get them out of town and away from the expected life of marriage early and multiple children. The sisters decide, that they cannot leave town without finding out what happened to Grace.

When remains are found and it is discovered that they are in fact not Grace’s, there is concern that there is a serial killer in their midst. The girls continue digging deeper into the townsfolk and the secrets that Grace left behind. The girls are also. in the midst of their own relationships with family and friends both past and present.

This book had me by the throat from the beginning and never let up. I found myself racing through the chapters long past bedtime because I couldn’t put it down. Special shout out to educator Mrs Murmur who imparted such wisdom for every day living. (I’ve decided I will follow some of her teachings.) Miss McHugh’s writing is clear and concise and had me racing from clue to clue just like the girls did. I believe this is my first Laura McHugh novel, however it will certainly not be my last. She will be an author on my list to watch.

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House for this ARC opportunity. All opinions are my own and given voluntarily.

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Pick this one up! Be prepared for great character building, a heartbreaking plot and a twist you won’t see coming.
Safe and Sound follows sisters Amelia and Kylee as they try to figure out what happened to their older cousin Grace, while she was babysitting them one night. Grace disappeared without a trace, other than the blood found at the home. Beaumont, Missouri is a small town, where your highest hopes are working at Waffle House or the local plant Savor Meats. This story is deep. Laura McHugh did a fantastic job of showing us the layers of these 3 girls, their childhoods were far from perfect ( check your trigger warnings).
Grace was a protector of her younger cousins. She was smart with a bright future. She wanted out of Beaumont. Grace had a boyfriend that didn’t want her to leave, a weird boss, a perverse Uncle that made Grace’s childhood horrific, and an uncomfortable encounter with a stranger while she was working at the Waffle House. Who did harm to Grace? Trust me, I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to find out. I was wrong. Dead wrong. Laura McHugh is definitely going to be added to my auto buy author list.
Thank you to Random House Publishing Group and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this advanced copy.

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If you could just give me a moment to finish my belly breaths, that would be great. I'm utilizing all my anger management protocols to prevent me from hurling my book across the room.

<in through the nose, out through the mouth>

OK, I'm ready. I have an intense dislike for the wrap-up of this book. All of it. From Chapter 50 to the very last page. I mean, ugh! Absurdly unbelievable to me. I really did just hate it.

To be fair, it is somewhat a good thing I have these strong feelings. To assume I disliked the book because I loathed the ending would be incorrect. I'm angry because I was invested. I'm frustrated because I was interested. I was all in.

With its great pacing and intriguing premise, it was easy to tear through the pages. I was particularly taken with Grace and her story. A poignant look at life in a dead-end town and the struggle of lack of opportunity, neglect, and abuse. I really was all about it. Until...argh.

Final thoughts? I feel most people will find themselves a fan of this read. I have enjoyed others from her body of work.That ending, though? I just can't get behind it. Completely killed the experience for me. And yes, it is a "me" thing.

Thank you to both the author and the publisher for the opportunity to read an advanced readers copy via Net Galley. I'm willingly leaving my thoughts on my reading experience.

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Safe and Sound delves into the gritty mystery of a small town, focusing on a high school senior who goes missing while babysitting her young cousins. Six years later, her cousins, now teenagers themselves, embark on a journey to uncover the truth behind her disappearance.

Grace Crow had the opportunity to leave her small Missouri town with a college scholarship, aiming to start a new life. However, just months before graduation, she disappears from her own kitchen while babysitting, leaving behind only a pool of blood. With no leads, her case remains cold until her cousins take it upon themselves to unravel the mystery, hoping to move forward and escape their hometown.

This novel presents a dark and twisted family drama, highlighting the challenges faced by a young girl striving to break free from her hometown for education and new experiences. The narrative explores themes of betrayal and confinement, especially through Grace's perspective, portraying the abuse she endured and the feeling of entrapment.

The chapters from Grace’s point of view are particularly difficult to read, depicting her hardships and struggles. Conversely, Amelia and Kylie’s chapters offer a refreshing contrast with their sharp dialogue and witty remarks, primarily from Kylie. Their dedication to the investigation, despite their youth, will resonate with readers, especially those familiar with hardscrabble backgrounds and Midwestern roots.

Overall, Safe and Sound is a compelling mystery featuring resilient young heroines who risk everything to protect their loved ones and chase their dreams. It intertwines family secrets, ambition, and a quest for justice, making it a captivating read for fans of twisty mysteries and strong female protagonists.

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Five star caveat- this book is very dark and gritty with triggers aplenty, so check with a trusted source before reading. However, as a longtime fan of Laura McHugh, I feel confident saying that in a whole backlist of excellent work, this is one of her absolute finest. Heartpounding tension, incredibly drawn characters, and what I personally think McHugh does best- creating an atmosphere that is both specific and universal, a setting that readers can absolutely picture and feel they know.

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Safe and Sound was tough to read...not in the hard to get through way, but child abuse is a disturbing, hard-to-read about topic. Laura McHugh takes it on a way that is sensitive and more about the survivor than the abuser. I loved the character of Grace, who is strong, gritty, tough, and also fiercely protective of her two younger cousins, She's a fighter, despite the odds being stacked against her. I loved this book, especially the message that runs throughout of finding something beautiful in every day.

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What happened to Grace Crow? Six years after her disappearance, the yearly vigil continues in Beaumont, Missouri. Her cousins Amelia and Kylee are determined to get out of a town that does not feel big enough for their dreams. There has to be more than The Waffle House, Sweet Jane's, the Kum & Go, and Savor Meats. If only they knew what had happened to Grace. How can they leave their mother Shannon and Grace's sister Elsie with that question unanswered? Laura McHugh tells us this family story in two timelines: 1) Amelia & Kylee (Present) 2) Grace (Six years ago). As the two timelines converge, secrets are revealed and family ties are tested. This is what Laura McHugh does best. She takes small-town life and reveals the struggle of generational dysfunction. Can those chains be broken? It appears that Grace has missed her chance, but what about Amelia & Kylee? This is my favorite title from McHugh since The Wolf Wants In.

Thank you to Random House and NetGalley for a DRC in exchange for an honest review.

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Safe and Sound by Laura McHugh was one I didn’t want to put away.
The writing kept me glued to my Kindle and the characters held my attention from the very beginning.
A compelling and intriguing storyline.
The pacing, plotting and characterization is so well done.
I enjoyed it and will definitely pick up her next title.

Thank You NetGalley and Random House for your generosity and gifting me a copy of this amazing eARC!

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I did enjoy this novel, but it was hard in places. Getting out of a place you feel trapped is hard. Characters were well written

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4.5 STARS - If you enjoy gripping, tense and atmospheric novels with well-drawn characters (as one does), you need to read Laura McHugh. I've been a fan of hers since reading her previous books The Weight of Blood and What's Done in Darkness and now she's back with a new suspense read.

Safe and Sound is her upcoming book that centres around two sisters - Amelia and Kylee - who are eager to escape their small town and the hardships of their childhood as soon as possible. The mysterious loss of their much-loved cousin Grace six years prior continues to haunt the girls and from the meagre clues, it looks like teenage Grace was abducted and did her best to save her younger cousins.

Amelia and Grace start to dig into Grace's disappearance before they leave their small town forever and unearth the dark underbelly of Beaumont, Missouri and secrets Grace had been keeping. [Please note that there is subject matter that could be triggering for some readers]

Told by the POVs of Grace, Amelia and Kylee, readers will be pulled into this emotionally charged and haunting story with its small-town Ozark vibe, its cast of complex characters.

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to the publisher for providing me with a complimentary digital copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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Unique mystery told from two perspectives. If you go in expecting Safe and Sound to be a standard mystery, you'll get elements of that. If you're expecting a neat resolution, well...

McHugh gets the perspective right! Amelia is forced to be mature for her years, but she's still an older teen/new adult and her actions and thought processes reflect that. When you think you've got it figured out, you may correct but there are still surprises coming.

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"𝘍𝘰𝘭𝘬𝘴 𝘸𝘢𝘯𝘵 𝘵𝘰 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘬 𝘪𝘵'𝘴 𝘴𝘵𝘳𝘢𝘯𝘨𝘦𝘳𝘴 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘨𝘰𝘵𝘵𝘢 𝘸𝘢𝘵𝘤𝘩 𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘧𝘰𝘳, 𝘣𝘶𝘵 𝘢 𝘱𝘭𝘢𝘤𝘦 𝘭𝘪𝘬𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴, 𝘸𝘦 𝘦𝘢𝘵 𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘰𝘸𝘯."

When my friend Carrie (@mamacapssreads) posted she saw Anna Quindlen and that the author recommended 𝗦𝗔𝗙𝗘 𝗔𝗡𝗗 𝗦𝗢𝗨𝗡𝗗 by Laura McHugh, and I knew I had to read it. I was not disappointed.

This dual POV-dual timeline thriller follows sisters Amelia and Kylee who vow to find out what happened to their beloved cousin, Grace, who disappeared while babysitting for them. The deeper they dig, the more secrets they unearth that could threaten their chance to do what Grace couldn't - escape their dead-end town.

This atmospheric thriller hooked me from the start. The depressing small town reminded me a bit of 𝘖𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘚𝘢𝘷𝘢𝘨𝘦 𝘚𝘪𝘥𝘦 which I loved and the twists surprised me. With short chapters and brisk pacing, it's a quick read with an ending that you won't see coming.

Thanks to Random House and NetGalley for the copy to review.

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I've had the pleasure of reading another book by this Missouri native Laura McHugh and hearing her talk after The Weight of Blood was released during one of our GFWC conventions. I was excited to see this available on NetGalley! I started reading this morning and accidentally read it all. Now it's 10:22 pm and I should be asleep but I'm all jacked up and want to talk to someone about this, so here you go!

It's so easy to picture the small town of Beaumont, Missouri and the two sisters that are chomping at the bit to leave town as soon as graduation comes. They're right off the interstate with a Waffle House, a Kum & Go, a meat processing plant. Their cousin Grace went missing a few years back, but she always talked about getting out of town and going to college, but instead there was a trail of blood and a lot of questions. There are a lot of suspects, and we go back and forth between present day with the sisters and in the past with Grace. The ending is wild and unexpected and I really need to process this with someone! It releases Tuesday, so if you read it, let me know!! I also need more to the ending or an epilogue or something!!!

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Laura McHugh has found a niche writing gritty, emotional stories in which the past and present collide, set in some of America's most rural, poverty-stricken areas. In Safe and Sound, she takes readers to Beaumont, Missouri, where Amelia works at the Waffle House, trying to save enough money to get herself and her younger sister, Kylee, out of town. Six years ago, their teenage cousin Grace disappeared while babysitting them, leaving a kitchen covered in blood -- and now human remains have been found in town. Amelia and Kylee are desperate to get out of Beaumont, to start a life somewhere better -- but even more than that, they want to find out what happened to Grace, once and for all. Their journey for answers will unearth secrets they never expected, and put them in much more danger than they could have anticipated.

Safe and Sound is a dark, emotionally resonant, immersive story about the complex bonds of family, the consequences of repressed trauma, and what it means to feel stuck, desperate and hopeless, in a place where you no longer fit (and maybe never did). The narrative completely transports readers to Beaumont, where the smell of the meat-packing plant permeates all of the town's dusty, worn-down nooks and crannies. Laura McHugh's characters are some of the best I've ever read; they are richly textured, flawed, and in the case of Amelia and Kylee, so endearing and determined. But McHugh can also write a vile, reprehensible character very well -- and there are more than a few that feature in this book.

The subject matter is dark and sad, and McHugh is unflinching as she addresses the topic of abuse head-on. But at the end of the novel, the reader is somehow left feeling optimistic for the futures of these characters. It's this quality of peeling back the layers to reveal and explore the darkest parts of humanity, while also leaving readers with a message of hope rather than despair, that makes McHugh one of the strongest, most authentic voices in modern grit lit. If you haven't read her other novels, I highly recommend them in addition to this one. Thank you to Random House for the early reading opportunity.

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Two sisters living in a small town where the main employer is a meat packing plant, plan to escape the dismal future by making better choices than their mother. Too many of the adults in their lives have settled for the same sorry existance of their parents, setting the example of what the sisters can expect if they don't escape. The only person they ever had that pushed them to suceed was their cousin and babysitter, Grace. But Grace disappeared one evening, leaving a bloody kitchen but no other clues. The sisters have always believed they could find Grace and now they are old enough to try.

As a plot line, it might not be the most unique, but McHugh's characters give an edge of desperation to the story that will keep your attention focused on the sisters as they discover that the town they already hated has some secrets that add to their determination to leave and not look back. The only question is whether they can find what happened to Grace and escape with their lives. Definitely worth reading and sharing.....and then looking to see what else McHughhas in her library.

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Couldn't get into it

I started this book four times, but never got more than a quarter pf the way through. Although the characters were good, pretty much everything seemed like many books I have read over the years. Missing girl, slimy boss, small-town secrets. I will try this again later, and will revise this if it finally catches my attention. but so far i keep putting it down for other options.

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Laura McHugh (favorite author) returns following What's Done in Darkness with another haunting dark mystery thriller, SAFE AND SOUND —set in a claustrophobic small town in the Ozarks, where no one leaves, the feeling of being held captive, and few places to hide.

Darkly chilling, psychological, atmospheric, and compelling.

"Folks want to think it's strangers you gotta watch out for, but in a place like this, we eat our own."

As children, Amelia and Kylee were in Beaumont, Missouri, with their teenage cousin, Grace (their babysitter). Then she disappeared when they were hidden in the closet.

That was six years earlier, and no clues as to her whereabouts. Missing or dead.

Grace was excited to be so close to escaping this rural town after graduating from high school. Everyone wants to leave, but few are able to.

So what happened? The only clue was so much blood in the farmhouse. The three have always been close.

Amelia and Kylee are preparing to leave this dead-end town as Grace had always encouraged them. They want to find their cousin.

Then, the remains of a woman are found, and they wonder if it is Grace. They need a plan and uncover secrets in the town and their families. They also discover Grace is hiding secrets. Who can they trust? The more they learn, the more dangerous their search becomes with a long list of suspects.

Told cleverly from POVs: Amelia and Kylee with alternating chapters as the past unfolds through Grace's POV.

Dark secrets and abuse are interwoven with multi-layered, well-developed characters and a bond between the girls. The atmospheric setting has darkness lurking on every page. You will love the girls' unique personalities, which are tenacious and determined.

SAFE AND SOUND is beautifully written, gritty, haunting, vivid, emotional, and gripping. Character-driven and written with lyrical prose, it is a raw look into dark family secrets, evil, and the search for the truth. I'm a big fan of the author; all her books are hauntingly beautiful! If you have not previously read this author's books, I highly recommend them.

Thanks to Random House Publishing and NetGalley for an advanced reading digital copy. I look forward to listening to the audiobook narrated by (favorite) Jorjeana Marie.

Blog review posted @
@JudithDCollins | #JDCMustReadBooks
Pub Date: April 23, 2024
My Rating: 5 Stars
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4.5 rounded up! Read this book!! Author is going on my automatic read list!!

So to start, my first by this author and I’ve already added all her other books to my library list and will definitely be reading her other books!!

I absolutely loved Grace, Amelia and Kylee. Each was developed so well and written perfectly to a small town girl looking for more out of life, each in a different way.

There are some triggers for child abuse and inappropriate touching/pictures of children. Didn’t bother me, just heads up. It’s written skillfully.

I didn’t want the story to end and just when i thought I’d figured something out, nope, it would twist a different way and i definitely didn’t see the ending coming.

Thanks to Netgalley and Random house for my electronic advanced reader copy in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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Life in Beaumont, Missouri for teenage sisters Amelia and Kylee has always come with a countdown attached; in the small town heart of the Ozarks, folks who don't get out by a certain time don't seem to get out at all. With the shadow of their mother Shannon, a middle-aged stripper who's yet to get motherhood down, constantly looming as a reminder of what their future could hold, Amelia and Kylee are saving all they can to leave Beaumont permanently in their rearview mirror.

The one thing holding them back, however, is the unsolved disappearance of their cousin Grace.

Six years ago, Grace vanished from the Crow house with hardly a trace. Though the trail is long-cold and the community has moved on, Amelia and Kylee have a feeling that Beaumont knows more than it's letting on; after all, if there's one thing small town folk do well, it's burying secrets deep if it means protecting their own.

"Safe and Sound" is my first novel by Laura McHugh, and as far as thrillers go, I found it solidly middle-of-the-road. Despite quick pacing and an intriguing-enough premise, it follows what feels like a too-familiar design of small town secrets unearthed and seedy, down-on-their-luck characters. While not memorable enough to be a standout in the genre, if you're looking for a read-in-a-day thriller as a palette cleanser, this could be one to keep on your to read list.

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I really enjoyed this novel. This is my first time reading this author, and I look forward to reading more from her.

Grace, Kylee and Amelia are cousins who live in a small town wanting so deaperately to get out and never look back. When Grace goes missing after a night babysitting Kylee and Amelia, her body is never found. Now it's up to Kylee and Amelia to undercover what happened the night Grace disappeared.

Trigger warnings present such as child molestation, sex, drugs, and alcohol abuse.

4 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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