Member Reviews

Oh my goodness! Laura McHugh, absolutely never disappoints, and because of that fact, I went into her latest novel, Safe and Sound completely blind.

This fast paced novel centers around Amelia and Kylee, teenage sisters, that dream of escaping their one-track town. Six year prior their older cousin Grace mysteriously disappears. Grace was nearing the end of her senior year, and was looking forward to college, which made her disappearance all the more puzzling. Now present day the town is in a frenzy when human remains are found wondering if it’s Grace. With a lot of unanswered questions still surrounding Grace, the girls make it their mission to figure what happened to their cousin once and for all.

This 5+++ star novel played out like a movie in my mind from start to finish! The characters are extremely well-developed, and Laura McHugh did a fantastic job of conveying their experiences and emotions. Told through alternating viewpoints, the storyline bounces between the past and present, which adds more intrigue and suspense to this epic read! I have adored every single one of Laura McHugh’s prior novels, and I think Safe and Sound is my new top favorite from her! I really think Safe and Sound would make a fantastic book club selection- a true must read!

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Laura McHugh delivers another gripping rural noir thriller! The story bounces back and forth between past and present. Sisters, Amelia and Kylee are searching for answers about their missing cousin, Grace. Multiple suspects and questions pop up throughout their search, and leave the reader guessing til the end about what really happened to Grace.

McHugh describes rural Missouri with superb accuracy. She sheds light on the good, the bad, and the ugly of small town life using dark humor and disturbing details. McHugh shows how strong family bonds can be, especially between sisters. Also, the rough side of family ties is well represented.

An epilogue or more thorough ending is the only thing that left me wanting in this novel.

*Trigger warning: Child sexual abuse*

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McHugh's newest is heartbreaking and filled with grace notes, as a sister duo try to find the body of their beloved cousin. Small town Missouri springs to life, as well as the emotions and personalities within a family whose destiny seems forgone. McHugh is a master of small details that build to create a vivid picture of a person and a place. The rising tension, the slow creep toward a place where you almost want to look away, all make this one highly recommended.

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Six years ago, on the verge of being able to finally escape the small town she lived in, Grace disappears, leaving a whole lot of blood behind. Her two younger cousins, sisters Amelia and Kylee were in the house but unharmed.

Now, Amelia and Kylee long for that same thing… to get out of their town that holds people back, trapping them in mundaneness. When human remains are found in town, the sisters are determined more than ever to find out what happened to their cousin.

This was such a great story, filled with despair, grief and secrets that could potentially bury them. No matter what, though, they do whatever they can to protect one another and to find out the truth. I read this in a day because I couldn’t put it down.

Trigger warnings for child sexual abuse.

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I have been a big fan of Laura McHugh's writing since I read her debut years ago. I just love the level of character development and descriptive atmosphere that she is able to achieve. I feel like the book played out in my mind like a movie while I read it. This book kept me engaged throughout while told by sisters, Amelia and Kylee, and their missing cousin Grace, each narrating several chapters at a time in alternating timelines. Their stories are just captivating and heart breaking. The story kept building steadily in this setup and leads to a conclusion that you won't see coming.

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This book is fantastic! This story is only made better by the deep family bonds, the haunting storyline and the great ending.

Safe And Sound is told in three voices, past and present. Grace is the intellectual, the caregiver of her cousins, and the girl who wants to leave her small town life and make something of herself. Kylee is scrappy, loud and not afraid to say what’s on her mind. And Amelia is the introspective sister who tries to keep Kylee in check and on the right path.

When Grace disappears, leaving a blood trail behind, the whole town comes together and mourns the loss. Kylee and Amelia want to solve the mystery of their cousin’s disappearance and won’t let anyone get in their way. They uncover many untold secrets and persevere until the end.

It’s impossible not to get caught up in the suspense of this thriller and cheer for each of the characters. I highly recommend this 4-star book. Thank you, NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group for the ARC.

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5 stars-A small town with a diner, a meat packing plant, a strip club…and 3 girls who just want to get out and do more with their lives. Laura McHugh writes with such depth, and makes us feel the pain and the triumph of each character. Told in the viewpoints of the two girls left behind and the one that is missing, this book will haunt yo u long after you finish the last page. I would like to give my extreme gratitude to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC. It was a pleasure to read and review.

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I wasn't prepared for the profound impact this thrilling and emotionally charged story would have on me. It's a dark and haunting tale that resonated with every fiber of my being.

Imagine a town where everything decays, where all the escape routes seem blocked when you yearn to start fresh in a new place, to embrace freedom. But every step you take toward getting out feels like you're being dragged into a suffocating swamp, slowly drowning until you can't breathe. Living in Beaumont, Missouri follows a grim pattern: born at Beaumont General, working at Savor Meats, and ultimately ending up in Beaumont Memorial Cemetery. Many dream of leaving this wretched place before it taints their souls, but few succeed, remaining trapped until the cruel game of life they're forced to play is over.

Amelia and Kylee, two inseparable sisters, plan to escape this place after enduring the hardships of poverty. They were raised by their eccentric mother, a pole dancer who struggles to provide a roof over their heads. Their cousin Grace, who has been missing for six years, played a pivotal role in their upbringing. A home invasion went awry, leaving only the two young sisters hiding in a closet from the intruder. They were saved thanks to Grace's self-sacrifice to protect them. Now, they must unravel the mystery of their cousin's disappearance to pay off their debt before leaving their past behind. However, they need a solid escape plan, which requires digging into the secrets hidden by the town's residents. What they didn't anticipate is that Grace was also keeping significant secrets that could shatter people's lives and further tarnish their already tainted family reputation. The frightening threat that could tear their lives apart might not come from outside forces—it could be lurking within their inner circle. People they trust may harbor greater danger than they can imagine.

Without revealing too much, I can genuinely say that the combined narrative of Amelia, Kylee, and Grace instantly drew me in. These three girls are distinct, yet they are all tough and resilient characters I could easily connect with. Amelia is soft-hearted, self-sacrificing, hardworking, smart, idealistic, and loyal. Kylee is street-smart, selfish, cunning, sarcastic, straightforward, and a total badass. Grace is vulnerable but a fighter, smart, a planner, caring, and mature. Their well-constructed character development made me love them even more.

Overall, the story's enthralling events and the bittersweet conclusion that lingers in your thoughts made my reading journey immensely enjoyable. I'm adding this brilliant author to my list of approved writers. From now on, I'll be reading any book she releases without hesitation, granting it a full five-star rating.

A big thank you to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group for sharing this exceptional book's digital review copy with me in exchange for my honest thoughts.

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What a thrill ride! The plot was well developed and the characters well fleshed out. The story was pretty intense so be sure to read in a private space so no one sees your jaw drop every five minutes! Highly recommend

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Thank you to Random House for my arc!

This was so good! it was told in alternating timelines with Amelia and Kylee and then Grace up until the time she went missing and I couldn't put it down. I have a close relationship with my cousins like Amelia Grace and Kylee and I couldn't help but relate to Grace and her struggles she went through. the writing was flawless and the ending left me completely by surprise.

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Thank you Netgalley for the ARC of this book. I love McHugh's writing and was really excited to get this one. The story was pretty intense and the characters very well done. Highly recommend

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Brilliant but triggering. I'm not from small-town Missouri, but I did grow up somewhere very much like it. A place that hardly anyone ever leaves, and where everyone pops out babies as soon as possible after high school and goes to work at the big local company. I also had a family eerily similar to Grace's, complete with the creepy uncle that everyone suspected was into some questionable shit. And I was a lot like Grace – maybe not as smart, perhaps, but my one goal as a teenager was to get far, far away from it all. This book was hard to read at points, because it was kind of like reliving a part of my life that I don't really care to revisit. But, at the same time, it was also really, really good.

The characters in this book are particularly well-written. I loved Grace and Amelia and Kylee and Ketch and Dallas, and even the bad guys have some depth and aren't just one-dimensional cartoon villains. Grace and Amelia are both strong and courageous – Grace because of her desire to protect her cousins and to make something of her life, and Amelia with her determination to solve the mystery of her cousin's disappearance and to get out of Beaumont. Uncle Norman is a piece of rotting dog poo, of course, but pretty much all of the other characters are sympathetic even if they're not especially likable.

The plot is fast-paced and suspenseful, and I about cried when I had to temporarily stop at the 90% mark to attend to real-life stuff.

My one complaint about this book is the ending. In some ways it was amazing, but it was also very … incomplete. The mystery (what happened to Grace?) is technically solved, sure, but the the main characters' futures are all left very much up in the air. There were also a few side storylines that I feel didn't get wrapped up very well, mostly relating to Alan and Bill/Annalise. Still, the ending that did occur was dramatic and suspenseful, and might I even say just a little bit hopeful? For that reason alone, I didn't totally dislike it, and it didn't do a whole lot to diminish my enjoyment of the rest of the story. But, seriously, what happened afterward?!

Final rating: 4.5 stars, rounded up. Safe and Sound is an excellent novel that will likely resonate with anyone who grew up wanting nothing more than a fresh start elsewhere.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Random House for providing me with an advance copy of this book to review.

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I always enjoy McHugh's writing style, but I do wish the ending had been rounded out a bit more instead of left open.

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