Hoffman’s debut novel takes readers to the unsexy world of rural New York and a farming community with more than one secret.
Stacy Flynn is a reporter covering the tiny town of Haeden. Flynn is on the prowl for the story that will make her name in the field of investigative journalism, and she’s decided that Haeden and its acres of dairy farms are just the ticket to an award. Flynn writes and edits the local paper, but she’s not a Haeden native. Instead, she moved from Cleveland to take over the town rag, covering football games and pancake breakfasts under the occasional eye of the former editor. But when the body of a waitress and local favorite, Wendy White, turns up, Flynn bites into the story like a starving dog. Something is very wrong with the way the police and the town are treating White’s murder, and she’s not the only one who thinks that way. But there’s another case, a more recent one, and that one really weighs on Flynn’s mind. It centers on the most unlikely family imaginable: a pair of disaffected doctors turned hippies and their brilliant little girl, Alice. Unhappy with the way their lives were going in New York City, the Piper family moved to Haeden when Claire and Gene left medicine. Gene, Alice’s father, also believes, as does Flynn, that the dairy business is poisoning the water and land for miles around. Told from Gene’s, Alice’s and Flynn’s perspectives, along with those of many others, including the dead girl’s, Hoffman’s book rotates points of view every couple of pages. Although mostly well written, the story devolves into some snooze-worthy prose, particularly sections detailing agricultural practices and Alice’s essays. The author tells the reader over and over that the women in this story are strong and, in the end, she proves it.
Hoffman wanders into the cow pasture a little too often, but the intersection of the lives of two smart young women with a shared consciousness turns what could have been a boring tale into something worth reading.