Arrowood

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Arrowood Book Launch
Join author Laura McHugh for a discussion and book signing of her second novel, Arrowood
7 p.m. • Tuesday, Aug. 9
Barnes & Noble, Columbia Mall
2208 Bernadette Drive

After working in information technology for 10 years, Columbia author Laura McHugh decided to return to her storytelling roots. Her first degree had been in English, and writing had always been a part of her life. It was time to rekindle the passion.

Her debut novel, The Weight of Blood, published in 2014, garnered immediate accolades — BookPage’s Best Book of the Year, International Thriller Writers Award Winner for Best First Novel and more

The Weight of Blood’s central character Lucy muses, “The Mystery eats away at you, but it leaves a thin rind of hope.” She could be describing the pull of McHugh’s writing and its powerful melding of mystery, suspense and literary quality with strong female characters who shatter rural Midwestern molds. “I enjoy writing strong female characters and breaking some of the gender stereotypes,” McHugh says.

McHugh also delves into the darkest sides of humanity, especially in those closest to us. “I grew up in rural areas in Missouri and Iowa, and I like to explore the darker side of small-town Midwestern life in my writing,” she says. Through the strength and determination of her protagonists, McHugh offers hope that transcends generations.

Arrowood, McHugh’s second novel scheduled for release this month, follows this same pattern — in subject and in early acclaim. This past June, Arrowood had already merited a pre-publication Library Journal starred review.

In McHugh’s new novel, the 20-year-old disappearance of infant twin girls is a haunting breaking point for the Arrowood family, already weighed down by generations of tragic deaths. Arden Arrowood returns to her childhood home, yearning for its familiarity, unprepared for how much the unsolved mystery of her sisters’ disappearance will come to haunt her. In the small-town mansion she inherits, this mystery will become physically too close for comfort.

McHugh’s characters are as deeply steeped in family history as the Ozarks sun tea they crave. Her stories are true to small-town life, where family matters and the bonds within the town create unique connections.

“I am a fan of complex characters,” McHugh says. “There are strong women in my books, but not all of them are good people … [I]t’s ridiculous when the women only show up in the story to serve food or have sex.”

McHugh — the youngest child in a large family, with four brothers (one deceased) and three sisters — is no stranger to sibling bonds. Her deceased brother is one of the many key threads of her storytelling origin.

“My older brother wasn’t much of a reader, and I was always hungry for new books,” McHugh says. “He’d let me borrow the classics he brought home from his high school English classes, like Ethan Frome and O Pioneers! I’d summarize the stories for him so he could write book reports. I’m sure some of the deeper themes went over my grade-school head, but he didn’t care.”

Neither did Laura. She has continued to read, write and tell stories with an undeniable gift.

Readers should anticipate seeing more McHugh successes, as Spiegel & Grau (a division of Random House) has contracted two more of her titles for release in the next two years.

Visit www.weightofblood.com to learn more about McHugh’s work.

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