Member Reviews

**4.5 stars rounded up for Goodreads**

I know when a new Laura McHugh book comes out that it’s going to be equal parts mystery and an examination of society with a touch of heart and melancholy. Safe and Sound is no different. This is a tense read going back and forth with present day sisters Amelia and Kylee and their older cousin Grace in the past. I was surprised by the very dark (and twisted!) twist at the end. My only complaint is I wish there’d been a little more to the ending but overall an excellent dark, emotional, family driven story which is Ms McHugh’s special brand of Ozark noir.

Each character, especially the females, is fully developed. I especially loved Grace and Amelia.

**Thanks to the author and Random House for the e-arc I received via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.**

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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."

Set in a rather bleak, poor, Missouri factory town, this novel could be considered Midwestern noir. Expertly written, it evokes feelings of claustrophobia and despondence, while at the same time you are desperately rooting for the protagonists.

Amelia and her sister Kylee are underprivileged teens, the neglected daughters of a single mother who works as a stripper in the local seedy strip joint. Their elder cousin Grace watched out for them as children. Grace was the one determined to get out of this insular, dead-end town, and she had the smarts to do it! However, it was while she was babysitting the two girls when she disappeared from their home leaving only a bloody handprint in the kitchen...

"We haunted ourselves with her memory, and there was no easy cure for such things."

Now, Grace's mother holds a vigil each year praying for Grace to return. Meanwhile, Amelia and Kylee are determined to find out what happened to their beloved cousin.

Amelia has graduated from high school and is working as a waitress in a Waffle restaurant off the interstate highway, where she has to fend off her 'handsy' boss. Kylee, who is besotted with horses, is in her last year of high school, and is threatening to leave school behind...

In a previous timeline, the reader also hears the narrative of Grace, before she disappeared.

Written with insight and empathy, this novel has some scenes that might prove distressing to some readers. The subject matter is quite dark, so be warned.

The ending was not what I expected, but it was apt and disturbing. This was an emotional story exploring whether a person's background can seal their fate.

Having read Laura McHugh's debut novel back in 2014 and loving it, I'm ashamed to say that I've not read anything of hers until this book. The good news is that I have three of her backlist novels now residing on my TBR list.

Highly recommended!

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Laura McHugh has just released her new book - Safe and Sound. I really enjoyed her debut novel, The Weight of Water. (my review) And I really enjoyed Safe and Sound as well.
McHugh again does a brilliant job of building the setting. Beaumont Missouri is a small town that the younger residents can't wait to leave. There's a heaviness to the town, dusty, dirty and worn with nothing to redeem it. Some folks get out - with a sigh of relief. Some stay. And some go missing...

Sisters Amelia and Kylee's older cousin Grace, is one of the missing. The girls are determined once again to try and find out what happened to her. Someone has to know something. And yes, omeone does indeed know something...

McHugh's prose are dark and gritty. There are moments where the sun shines through, letting hope in. And times where the 'wrong' comes to visit.

The plotting was excellent - with a finale that I couldn't predict. The ending was apt and right - I wish I knew what happened after the last page. An excellent read for me.

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Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this read. I have been reading other genres a lot and when I got to this book, I was very impressed. It was quite good to read. It was interesting and to read about these teens in the past and the present and see how the plot twisted and unfolded was well done. I have read other books by this author but I enjoyed this one the most.

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Amelia and Kylee are stuck in a dead end town, with little to no opportunities. They have had a tough life, and are doing everything they can to get out and never look back. But one nagging task at hand is holding them back…finding out what happened to their cousin Grace, who disappeared years ago while she was babysitting them.
Hauntingly familiar of small town tragedies all over the country, where there are no jobs and no chances. Will the sisters make it out? Or will they be stuck to continue the cycle?

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One of the biggest things that stood out to me about this was the picture it paints of living in a small town and feeling stuck. It was so vivid, and pretty depressing, but impressive how well it was conveyed.

The story is sad but well told. The end kind of comes together quickly in a surprising way, when you consider all the parts to it. I’ve never read anything else by the author but I feel like maybe I should.

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3.5 stars rounded up to 4

In the stagnant town of Beaumont Missouri, a life working at the local meat packing plant is about the best on offer. Six years ago, Grace was a senior in high school with a scholarship to college and a means to escape and make a better life. She disappeared one night after babysitting her young cousins (Amelia and Kylee) and no one knows what happened to her. The blood left behind looks grim.

The girls are now close to the age Grace was when she went missing and have been saving money for their own escape. However, when bones are found on a nearby farm, they wonder if Grace has finally been found. Should they stick around to find out what happened?

I felt the author did a nice job painting the picture of what it’s like to live in a small town where you’ve known the same people your whole life and no one, including your family, wants anything more than what they’ve become used to. Whether it’s slaving away at Savor Meats, stripping at Sweet Jane’s, or waitressing at Waffle House, you do what you have to do to support your family and that’s about it. It would be easy to feel trapped by obligation.

The story is told from two POVs, Grace’s and Amelia’s, and two time periods, 6 years ago and now. Everything is easy to follow with all questions answers. I found it to be a thoroughly well-written mystery, though not fast paced or necessarily suspenseful or thrilling.

There’s an element of child abuse that is integral to the story so if that triggers you, steer clear.

Thank you to NetGalley, Random House and Laura McHugh for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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Thanks to Random House and NetGalley for the ARC. I always enjoy Laura's books. Easy to read, yet full of depth. This one was no different.

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I enjoyed the book but I felt like it could have been better, the characters were pretty well developed but I felt like the bleakness of the setting could have been fleshed out more. Also the ending was really cutting off, which is a personal preference. I also knew who did it early on. I think it's more of a 3.5 stars

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I have LOVED her previous novels and she still writes rural noir like no one else, but this one just didn’t have that extra bite I have come to expect.

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Once again, Laura McHugh proves her mastery in capturing the gritty essence of Ozark life with her latest release. As an admirer of her previous works, I eagerly anticipated delving into her newest book. McHugh's skill in crafting vivid characters and immersive settings shines through once more, as she paints a portrait of individuals struggling to survive amidst harsh circumstances. From the memorable cast, flawed yet relatable, to the repugnant figures that evoke visceral reactions, every character is intricately woven into the fabric of the story. The juxtaposition of those striving to do right against those who have abandoned all morality adds depth to the narrative, making it a compelling exploration of human nature. As I turned the final page, I found myself immersed in the world of Beaumont, grateful to leave it behind yet profoundly affected by its raw authenticity. With its gripping plot and richly drawn characters, this book earns a well-deserved five-star rating."

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Another amazing novel from Laura McHugh. This author does not disappoint. This story is emotional and heartfelt. It’s full of twists and turns that kept me guessing. I was so emotionally involved in the characters and I had to know how it would end.

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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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