Such a Pretty Smile Is a Chilling Novel of Murder and What It Means To Be a Woman
Kristi DeMeester’s new novel Such a Pretty Smile follows two narrators over a decade apart as their community is ravaged by someone—or something—that is killing and dismembering pre-teen girls. This chilling debut has been a much-anticipated pick from io9, She Reads, This Is Horror, and many more.
There’s something out there that’s killing. Known only as The Cur, he leaves no traces, save for the torn bodies of girls, on the verge of becoming women, who are known as trouble-makers; those who refuse to conform, to know their place. Girls who don’t know when to shut up.
In 2019, the perspective begins with 13-year-old Lila. In addition to dealing with the awkwardness of a new stepmom and baby with her father, Lila’s mother is a local celebrity artist that people find unsettling due to the eerie sculptures Lila’s mother creates. As Lila begins to find her voice in this tumultuous time, everyone seeks to silence it.
In 2004, readers get the perspective of Lila’s mother, Caroline. Set amidst a backdrop of a string of murders, Carolina finds herself entering a trance-like space and creating large, violent sculptures. When Carolina tells her fiancé and doctor that she’s hearing spine-chilling noises that no one else seems to hear, her problems are dismissed and suppressed.
When they speak up
Although the horror in Such a Pretty Smile comes from the violence, gore, and otherworldly elements, it also emerges from an ever-present sense of foreboding that builds over the book’s pages. The touches of thriller elements come into play when our protagonists begin to realize that if they figure out what is going on with themselves and the string of murders, no one may listen or believe them. Very few moments in the novel feel safe, which provides for a transportive and spine-tingling reading experience.
Such a Pretty Smile is not just another story about the murder of women. DeMeester adeptly shows how the violent deaths of girls affect the further control of women as if they are the ones doing something wrong. The author also takes aim at the ways these acts of violence are framed as inevitable.
She further examines the culture of shame and silence that seeks to put women “in their place.” The quiet misogyny laced throughout the novel by the all too real experiences of being women.
Find out why Such a Pretty Smile has won raves in a narrative Publishers Weekly called “darkly visceral.” You can check it out here.
(via St. Martin’s Press, images: St. Martin’s Press)
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