This Bright River: A Novel

( 7 )

Overview

A compelling story of young love and old secrets

Ben Hanson's aimless life has bottomed out after a series of bad decisions, but an unexpected offer from his father draws him home to Wisconsin. There, he finds his family fractured, still reeling from his cousin's mysterious death a decade earlier.

Lauren Sheehan abandoned her career in medicine after a series of violent events abroad. Now she's back in the safest place she knows -- the same ...

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This Bright River

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Overview

A compelling story of young love and old secrets

Ben Hanson's aimless life has bottomed out after a series of bad decisions, but an unexpected offer from his father draws him home to Wisconsin. There, he finds his family fractured, still reeling from his cousin's mysterious death a decade earlier.

Lauren Sheehan abandoned her career in medicine after a series of violent events abroad. Now she's back in the safest place she knows -- the same small Wisconsin town where she and Ben grew up -- hiding from a world that has only brought her heartache.

As Lauren cautiously expands her horizons and Ben tries to unravel his family's dark secrets, their paths intersect. Could each be exactly what the other needs?

A compelling family drama and a surprising love story, This Bright River is the work of a natural storyteller, one whose dark humor and piercing intelligence provide constant, lasting delights.

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Editorial Reviews

Gillian Flynn
PRAISE FOR THIS BRIGHT RIVER:

"Ingenious, dark, thrilling and heartbreaking, This Bright River contains prose that will tempt you to linger on the page and a plot that simply won't let you. Just fantastic."

J. Courtney Sullivan
"This Bright River is nothing short of extraordinary. Somerville has a gift for writing gorgeous prose, complete with sharp humor and a perfect sense of place. But that's only half the story. There's also a great romance here and a shocking set of mysteries that get untangled along the way. Addictive, amazing, unforgettable."
Nic Pizzolatto
"This Bright River is a flood of virtuoso prose and characterization. Mystery, memory, pain, and a courageous strand of love are interwoven in a riveting narrative of voices, all singing, all merging into the singular vision of one of American literature's young masters."
Megan Abbott - author of The End of Everything and Dare Me
"In This Bright River, Patrick Somerville brings us two vivid characters knocked hard by life, guiding them through perilous places on a journey that reveals the weight of family history, its constant pull, the way it makes and unmakes us. The result is a novel that is both intimate and mysterious, harrowing and brave."
Publishers Weekly
The ambitious, stylish second novel from Somerville (after The Cradle) is set in the fictitious small town of St. Helens, Wis., and along the Bright River in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Ben Hanson, 32, is back home after his release from a white-collar, “pansy” prison near Portland, Ore., where he served a 14-month sentence for arson. Recovering from heroin and alcohol addiction, he reconciles with his affluent parents and older sister, Haley, and reconnects with a high school friend, Lauren Sheehan, a troubled divorcée and doctor recently returned to St. Helens. The emotionally damaged pair fall in love; Ben tries to solve his cousin Wayne’s mysterious death at the family cabin in Michigan; and Lauren fends off Dr. Will Besco, her wildly possessive ex, who has recently remarried. The ample use of backstory paints Will as an abusive husband, and Wayne as an impulsive addict, both things complicating the quests being undertaken together by Ben and Lauren. Things escalate to a violent climax, and a somewhat rambling wrapup finally reveals all the Hanson family’s dark secrets. Agent: Brettne Bloom, Kneerim & Williams. (June)
Library Journal
Ben returns to his hometown to prepare his late uncle's home for sale. A recovering addict and ex-felon, Ben feels adrift, but he seeks to rebuild some sort of relationship with his family and find direction for his life. He encounters Lauren, a high school classmate, who has escaped an abusive marriage. They find solace in each other, but dark secrets put both of them in peril. With a tantalizing opening that the reader won't make sense of until near the end, Somerville's (The Cradle) second novel is more complex than it first appears. Ben (and one suspects, the author) loves puzzles, and as he attempts to unravel his family's secrets, Somerville drops clues and telling details, the significance of which only later become clear to the reader. VERDICT Despite its dark edges (increasingly so as it progresses), this novel is also richly funny, engrossing, and humane. Though it contains elements of a murder mystery and thriller, this is a literary novel for readers who want to be simultaneously caught up in a story and impressed by the author's copious craft and skill.—Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, Univ. of Minnesota Libs., Minneapolis
Kirkus Reviews
Past misdeeds afflict generations of a wealthy Midwestern family. Somerville's latest concerns Ben Hanson, who, after several years out west wasting a fortune and serving a short prison term, returns to his small hometown of St. Helens, Wis. Ben's Uncle Denny has died, and he has accepted his wealthy parents' offer to fix up and occupy the house until it sells. Whereas the archetypal drifter is amoral, Ben is the postmodern type, crippled by self-awareness, paralyzed by the damage existence inevitably causes. What Ben has, and apparently needs, is an opportunity to babysit himself. Haunted by his cousin Wayne's death that may or may not have been suicide, determined to learn Wayne's secret, Ben is unable to name the larger conflict that makes his life a sequence of failures he cannot even dignify as attempts. Ben seeks out Lauren Sheehan, a girl he may or may not have had a crush on in high school. But Laura has suffered in the interim, and their courtship is inevitable if halting. While Ben is the protagonist, the narrative baton is passed between several principals. Somerville lets his characters talk and talk: The idioms of the tedious are captured with remarkable fidelity. But even the most patient reader may tire as these inarticulate souls tangle with their complicated feelings. It becomes a matter of taste: How do we react to overhearing a conversation while trapped on public transportation? Do we want to interrupt, to knock in some sense or offer advice, or do we listen, by turns angered and fascinated by tragedies only halfheartedly avoided? A provoking book: The reader will not escape untouched.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316129305
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Publication date: 6/11/2013
  • Pages: 449
  • Sales rank: 484,065
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Patrick Somerville
Patrick Somerville grew up in Green Bay, Wisconsin, attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and later earned his MFA from Cornell University. He is the author of the story collections Trouble and The Universe in Miniature in Miniature, and the novel The Cradle. He lives with his wife and son in Chicago, where he teaches creative writing at Northwestern University.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 7 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(3)

4 Star

(2)

3 Star

(1)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(1)

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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 7, 2012

    Ben Hanson is no stranger to mistakes. Recently released from pr

    Ben Hanson is no stranger to mistakes. Recently released from prison, he understands that he made errors in both his personal and professional life. Now, free from confinement and with new sobriety, Ben wanders though life, searching for some kind of meaning. When his uncle Denny passes away, Ben's father, Jack, invites him to move back to his hometown to help settle his late uncle's estate.

    Upon his arrival, Ben is flooded with memories of his past. He recalls the tragic death of his older cousin, Wayne, a tragedy that still haunts his family. As he begins to delve into his uncle's estate, fragments of the past come to light, all adding to the mystery of Wayne's demise.

    In the same town, Lauren Sheehan is also trying to rebuild her life. Escaping from a violent ex-husband and abandoning her medical career, Lauren has returned to her hometown in search of a fresh start. In the small town, it is now surprise that the paths of Ben and Lauren intersect. Having no true past relationship, the two slowly become interested in each other. As time passes, their troubled lives become intertwined, creating a connection that they could have never imagined. Together, they kindle a romance and attempt to move on with their lives before their negative past catches up with them.

    Going into this novel, I was unsure of what to expect. Normally, I try to steer clear of any "romance" novels, but this story offered much more. By slowly presents fragments of the two characters lives, mostly through flashback from each character's recollections, Somerville provides just enough information to keep the reader wanting more. Intricately imagined, the characters seem like genuine people who have had a rough go at life. Drawn with a sense of reality and empathy, it is easy to get behind Ben and Lauren and to truly care about them. While the writing is really great, I will admit that there were times when the change in time and narrator got a bit confusing. In certain moments Somerville slowed the pace of the plot, focussing more on character development that advancing the narrative. Fortunately, this attention to character made it impossible to stop reading. At times, this novel can be hard to digest. The themes of family drama, second chances, and suspenseful drama permeate this fascinating novel making it a completely engaging read.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 31, 2012

    I had to pace myself reading this because it was so well written

    I had to pace myself reading this because it was so well written and such a compelling story. THIS should have been a BN recommends. I still have 40 more pages to the end and I'm savoring every word. Patrick Somerville is a superb writer.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2012

    All in all ,I liked this book. Good, well drawn characters Plo

    All in all ,I liked this book. Good, well drawn characters Plot was a little farfetched, but ok. I was wondering if the author was hinting at something at the end of the book when he brings up some old crime of the second to the last page. Going to try to find thisauthor's first novel "the cradle"

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 5, 2013

    just read it...absorb it....ponder over it...and then remember i

    just read it...absorb it....ponder over it...and then remember it.....keen, crisp, edgy, and real...thought provoking and sensitive....tough and gritty and dreamy and crazy.....family....life....survival...and transition....read it

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 10, 2012

    Med Den

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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