By Ekta R. Garg
September 19, 2018
Release date: July 10, 2018
Rated: Borrow it / 3 stars
A woman thinks she’s found the ticket to the social scene at her son’s private school when one of the “cool” moms befriends her. One of the two women is hiding an enormous secret, however, and the other will need to deal with the fallout from the secret when it comes to light. Author Robyn Harding brings back the familiar themes of longing for social inclusion and incredulous antics by young people in her new novel Her Pretty Face.
Frances Metcalfe knows she has a problem with her weight. She knows she’s not the most put-together person. She even knows that other moms at her son’s elite private school shun her for these facts. Frances feels their slight and can’t ignore it. The only defense she has comes in the form of Kate Randolph.
The picture of the perfect woman, Kate has a handsome husband and a spotless house. Frances knows Kate could be friends with anyone, and she also knows the other moms have been scratching their heads trying to figure out what Kate sees in her. The obvious draw, of course, is that their sons are in the same grade. But Kate is calm and collected, a designer pair of shoes, while Frances is dowdy and plump, a nondescript pair of sneakers. On the surface they have nothing in common, but Kate chose her and that’s good enough for Frances.
The friendship motivates Frances to start eating healthy, to exercise, to pick up around the house more. She tries to keep her husband and her son happy, despite the secret that hangs over her head every single day. She’s never told anyone her secret, but as she and Kate get closer Frances thinks maybe Kate would understand. Kate, however, has a secret too, and when Frances finds it out she struggles to maintain objectivity. In same ways, they’ve both committed terrible acts. Maybe their friendship makes sense because they’re more alike than Frances would like to admit.
Author Robyn Harding brings back familiar themes of social inclusion and exclusion in Her Pretty Face. The novel proceeds with various points of view: Frances, Kate’s daughter, Daisy, and a mysterious character named DJ whose identity doesn’t get revealed until the end. Frances is clearly the protagonist of this story, however, and Harding does an excellent job of showing her ambivalence when she discovers Kate’s secret.
The other points of view come across as red herrings to the greater mystery, and readers may find themselves needing to exercise their patience while Harding weaves all the random threads together. Also, in reality, the book doesn’t contain a great deal of forward movement. Frances spends most of the book grateful for Kate’s presence in her life and wringing her hands at her exclusion from the school’s upper social circles. Her secret, too, functions as a red herring designed to throw readers off the track of the identity of a murderer.
Kate’s extreme indifference to Daisy comes across as a little jarring, even with the tidy explanation offered at the end for it. Harding could have spent a little more time sharing the psychological mindset of the characters. Also, curiously, she chooses not to share Kate’s point of view, which is a pity. As the story unfolds, readers will realize that maybe Kate’s point of view would have been the most fascinating of all.
Anyone looking for an easy read that will surprise you in spots will enjoy Her Pretty Face. I recommend readers Borrow the book.