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Underneath (Paperback)

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Underneath By Lily Hoang Cover Image
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(Staff Pick)

Staff Reviews

If you like delving into the darkest depths of the human psyche, this book is for you. Hoang spins a vivid tale of abuse and generational trauma that ends before it even begins, with the death of our narrator Arlene at the hands of her own mother. From her vantage point in a purgatory-like afterlife, Arlene examines her mother’s life, from a horrific childhood filled with bullying and casual mistreatment through the births of her four children and all the way to her imprisonment for the murders of those very children. With her newfound insight, Arlene eviscerates the social and familial cultures that pushed her mother to become the monster that she knew and loved, sparing nobody and nothing from her cold analysis. Brutal, poetic, and unflinching, this is the kind of fictionalized true crime that will forever change the way you see the world and the people who live in it.

— From David's Staff Picks


Over a five-year period, Martha Johnson murders her four children, one by one, in order to punish her husband when they argue, but Martha is no ordinary serial killer. She murders her children by using the bulk of her 250-pound body to suffocate them. Unlike other fictionalized true-crime novels, Underneath neither valorizes nor focuses on the specific acts of violence. Instead, it attempts to understand how feelings of powerlessness, the residue of trauma, and the need to find justice in a world that refuses to give a fat body justice finds its only respite through murder.

Product Details
ISBN: 9781636280042
ISBN-10: 1636280048
Publisher: Red Hen Press
Publication Date: October 12th, 2021
Pages: 264
Language: English