7 of 8
Bright Before Us
288 pages
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.
— Carolyn Sun