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Monday, July 9, 2012

This Bright River

I love recommendations, be it from a magazine, a friend, or a blog.  This Bright River by Patrick Somerville was a recommendation and oh my goodness it was a great read.

Ben's life has been less than stellar, including both drugs and prison time for an accidental arson, so when his uncle dies Ben is sent back to the family's small-town cabin in the woods to wrap up family business.  Lauren's life abroad unraveled quickly and she ends up back in her hometown of St. Helens, Wisconsin to escape her past.  These two high school acquaintances slowly begin a romance that might cost both their lives when Lauren's past comes back to haunt them--in a very real and violent sense. 

Somerville tells his story as you would imagine the river flowing beside the cabin in the book--at one moment it's peaceful and explanatory, but underneath lies a violent undercurrent that will carry you away when you least expect it because you just aren't prepared and you weren't warned.  Ben is a complicated character who may not be as awful as everyone believes--he is an onion, and pulling back the layers only reveals smaller and smaller parts of him that may make him truly wonderful.  Lauren is so complex yet when you discover her past it is so easy to understand her standoffish attitude through half of the story.

This tale is told from two different perspectives, both Ben's and Lauren's, and this is vital to understanding the characters.  Normally it bugs me to have more than one first-person narrator, but here it is necessary.  Both Ben and Lauren are deep, deep characters and have layers upon layers that the reader needs to understand without conversation.  I thoroughly enjoyed this read and had a very hard time walking away from my Kindle (even to do yoga!) as the end drew near.  It's heart-pounding and adrenaline-pumping during the last third of the story.  Pick it up and see for yourself.

Kindle version on the left, hard copy on the right:

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