Today I would like to welcome Mary Kubica and her book Pretty Baby to the blog. When I read her first novel The Good Girl, I knew she would be an author to watch. She has an intriguing way of mixing the boundaries of right and wrong, the criminal mind and the moral guidelines we live our lives by. I hope you enjoy the fabulous Q&A with Mary Kubica and my review of Pretty Baby.
About the author
Mary Kubica holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in History and American Literature.
She lives outside of Chicago with her husband and two children and enjoys photography, gardening and caring for the animals at a local shelter. Her debut novel, The Good Girl, was an international bestseller.
Before we get down to the nitty-gritty about your book, I would like to do a set of questions called ‘Break the Ice.’
The last book you read? (Inquisitive bookworms want to know) Lori Nelson Spielman’s Sweet Forgiveness, which is a fabulous follow up to her internationally bestselling debut The Life List.
The last movie you watched, which you felt left a mark (in your heart, soul, wallet…you name it)? 12 Years a Slave.
Are you more of a Game of Thrones, Outlander gal? (Any kind of TV entertainment that makes you smirk, giggle or gasp.) I honestly don’t watch much in the way of TV. In our house, the television is incessantly tuned into the Disney Channel for the kids, though if I were to watch something it would likely be some sort of police drama or home decorating show.
Which famous person (dead, alive, barely kicking) would you most like to meet? Joan of Arc. I’m a bit of a history guru and have always been fascinated with her resilience and fortitude.
Something you treat yourself to, now and again? (Cream éclairs totally count, I myself have a small Twinkie affliction.) Anything chocolate! I have a terrible sweet tooth.
All of the above questions are actually a pretty elaborate pysch evaluation disguised as random questions. Have no fear here come the real ones. Let’s talk about Pretty Baby.
One of the elements I really enjoy about your stories is the way you mix our natural assumptions about what we perceive as good and bad in human beings. The boundaries between morally right and justifiably wrong. Readers are never quite sure where to place your characters, because often they cross back and forth over those boundaries, depending on the situations they find themselves in. So with that in mind…
The first question that popped into my head when I was reading the first few chapters, was about our society in general. Do you believe the bystander effect or bystander apathy is becoming more prevalent in our world and society, and if so, why? I don’t know that it’s becoming more or less prevalent than before, but it is prevalent. It seems common for people to be apathetic to societal issues and believe that someone else will intervene in a certain situation (in the case of PRETTY BABY, the plight of the homeless or children falling through the cracks of an overwhelmed foster care system) and so instead we’re prone to watch and do nothing or simply walk away. We naively believe – or hope – that someone else will help. The person who does step in to intercede seems to be quite extraordinary these days.
Would you have done the same thing for Willow and Ruby if it had been you in Heidi’s shoes? I would not. I think Heidi does a very noble thing by trying to help Willow and Ruby, and yet she also puts her family at risk when she brings this homeless girl and her baby into her home without knowing who they truly are. There are certainly other options for someone in Heidi’s position: she could have given Willow money or she could have sought the help of a homeless shelter or a social service organization. But that said, Heidi did take the initiative to help, and I certainly commend her for this.
Would it have been better for Willow in the long run, if she hadn’t received any information about Lily throughout the years? It’s hard to say what might have happened had things occurred differently in the novel. Willow may have been able to move on and find distance from her baby sister had she not received regular updates from Lily’s adoptive family, or Willow’s mind may have made up for lack of details and taken her to places she didn’t want to go. It could certainly go either way.
At this point a shout out to social workers and the heavy burden they have to carry. Do you think a lot of children slip through the system and become easy prey, because most systems in place for children’s welfare are overwhelmed with the sheer amount of work? I can’t speak to this with any sort of certainty, as Willow is one fictional child who managed to slip through the cracks of an overwhelmed system, but I would have to assume it happens. We hear quite often about abused children and the flaws within the foster care system, and it seems as if more priority or manpower or financial backing needs to be placed on the plight of these children.
I felt as if part of the blame (most of it) for the Joseph ‘situation’ was placed on Willow by Louise Flores and Amber Adler, perhaps in an attempt to placate their own guilt. Although we see loads of campaigns about children speaking up about abuse, do you think society still makes them feel as if they won’t be believed, because the truth is more uncomfortable for everyone? Victim blaming is often prevalent in many crimes, whether it’s a child or an adult who is the victim. Often times, these victims feel they won’t be believed, or that they have more to lose if they speak up against their ill treatment and abuse. I think it’s important that society makes victims feel safe and gives them a voice to speak up against their abuser without any backlash by the offender or society.
I couldn’t decide whether to feel sorry for Heidi, annoyed by her or angered by her actions. I do think you hit upon an important subject where she is concerned though. Women are expected to deal with certain situations without complaining, despite their heart being torn in two. Do you think Heidi would have made the same choices in regard to Ruby and Willow if she had received adequate care and counselling at the appropriate time in her life?Without giving away any spoilers, Heidi is suffering from the overwhelming effects of loss in her life, something which she has tried hard to ignore, leaving those feelings to stew rather than heal. Her life most would certainly have taken a different route had she sought treatment for her grief at the appropriate time rather than masking the affliction for years.
Lastly I would like to thank you for answering all my questions, both the bizarre and the more story focused ones. Thank you so much for having me!
After the phenomenal success of her novel The Good Girl, Kubica is back with another compelling read. The type of read that makes you have a conversation with the fictional main characters of a book.
Women are expected to shut up and endure, swallow and forget. It doesn’t really matter why or what, they are just expected to grin and bear whatever comes their way.
When you spend years of bottling up your emotions without any outlet, psychological and sometimes even physical damage is the result of those pent-up emotions.
In Heidi’s case the shut up and put on a brave face façade begins to crumble when she invites Willow and Ruby into her house and her life. She slowly becomes obsessed with Ruby, and the thought of Willow leaving makes her almost irrational.
Once again Mary Kubica leaves it up to the reader to decide who the bad guys and the good guys are. Believe you me, it is never so cut and dry with a Kubica story. The truth of the matter is that there is a bit of both in all of us.
Kubica merges important social topics with emotional scenarios and family dynamics. She delves into the foster care system, child abuse and most importantly the apathy of our society towards the most vulnerable.
The opening chapters are an eye-opener and are food for thought. What would you do in the same situation? Look away or show some compassion? Unfortunately in the world we live in the number of incidents taking place in connection with the so-called bystander effect are on the rise. People look away rather than get involved. In a way this is one of the reasons Heidi reaches out instead of just turning her back.
This is a psychological thriller with muddied waters when it comes to the good guys and the bad guys, but then that is exactly what Kubica excels at.
Thank you to MIRA UK, Harlequin UK and Mary Kubica for my copy of Pretty Baby.