The discovery of an infant's body rocks a seemingly idyllic New Jersey town in McCreight's intense sophomore effort.
Accustomed to writing lifestyle articles, reporter Molly Sanderson—a recent transplant to upscale Ridgedale with her English-professor husband and young daughter—never expected her first hard-news story to involve a dead baby. She's still reeling from her own miscarriage, and when an unidentified newborn girl is found in the woods near the college campus, it hits close to home. Expanding on the alternating-perspectives technique she used in her first novel, Reconstructing Amelia (2013), McCreight slowly lays out the pieces of the grim puzzle, which include Molly's ever widening investigation; the fears of the town as expertly conveyed through comments left on Molly's online news stories; and a complex relationship between two teenage girls from different sides of the tracks. At 16, Sandy Mendelson is more mature than her hard-partying mother, Jenna, who thinks nothing of parading a series of men (and drugs) in front of her daughter. After dropping out of school to help earn money for rent, Sandy is trying to get her GED diploma with the help of tutor Hannah Carlson, a high school senior whose life couldn't be more different. The daughter of Ridgedale's police chief—who's a reluctant source for Molly—and a demanding mother, Hannah is a tightly coiled spring. As rumors abound and Molly investigates the town's—and the college's—squeaky clean image, the baby's identity and her parentage threaten to tear Ridgedale apart.
Genuinely suspenseful and disturbing; McCreight delivers a provocative, timely novel that reminds us that sometimes the things that shine the brightest have the dirtiest underbellies.