When Francis Mason's class discovers a dead body on a field trip, the
elementary school teacher goes into a freefall of self-destruction.
Distancing himself from his pregnant wife and his job, he lashes out at
everyone and everything in his current life; he can find solace only in
his memories of Nora, his first love, the one that got away. "Ask me
what I most remember about high school and the answer is the back of
your head," he says to her during one of his many mental visits to the
past. Bright Before Us (Tin
House)—an ambitious debut novel from O assistant editor Katie
Arnold-Ratliff—is a nihilistic road trip of a book, full of lyrical,
dreamlike prose. It's also a story that reminds us that love, however
deeply felt, is not necessarily pretty or kind.