5 of 6
The Bright River
464 pages; Reagan Arthur/Back Bay Books
With some books you turn pages too quickly, unable to stand the suspense of how they'll turn out. Others, you linger over, afraid of their ending. This Bright River belongs in the latter category. Ben Hanson has staggered home after a stint in white-collar prison and a lifetime of making all the wrong choices for no easily identifiable reason. His only responsibility? To clean up and sell his recently deceased uncle's house in St. Helens, Wisconsin, where he grew up. Doing this, unfortunately, requires him to mull over his past while freshly sober—revisiting his relationship with his deceased, self-destructive cousin and his high-school love interest, Lauren, whom he dated for the length of a single study session for a science project. As fate (and fiction) would have it, Lauren herself has drifted back to town. Part love story, part murder mystery, part mediation on violence, part exploration of what home can and should mean, this novel roams wide and far, in terms of its story and even its geography—at one point setting down in a refuge camp in Africa. What glues it all together is Ben Hanson, and the writer behind him, Patrick Somerville, who filters the randomness of this world with an exquisitely wry and thought-provoking lens, tossing off one-line life- changers—like "Just to acknowledge that hard truth about people, how you can be a brave person in the world and make sacrifices and do a number of good things, but still not exactly be good" or "Lying in its ultimate and essential sense: knowing nothing about yourself" —that keep you looking for your own revelations along with the characters.
— Leigh Newman


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