The halting, harrowing narrative of Martin's second novel (after 2001's Quakertown) draws upon multiple voices to piece together a tragedy with its own slippery backstory. On a summer evening in an "itty-bitty" Indiana town in the 1970s, nine-year-old Katie Mackey rides her bicycle to the library and never comes home. Her father, Junior Mackey, owns the town's glassworks, and to the town's residents the Mackeys are like the Kennedys, envied for their looks, their wealth and their picture-perfect life. Peeling back the layers of his characters, Martin slips easily into their darker, secret lives-lives that may harbor clues to Katie's disappearance: Henry Dees, the reclusive math tutor who sometimes lurks in the Mackeys' house; Clare Mains, the widow shunned for remarrying out of loneliness; her galling husband, Raymond R., whose drug binges and blackouts occupy stretches of unaccounted-for time; Katie's parents, freshly tortured by their own tarnished past; and Katie's brother, 17-year-old Gilley, who seizes the chance to gain his father's approval by avenging Katie's death. Rich details and raw emotion mix as Martin, in engaging the human desire to excavate the truth, underscores its complex, elusive nature. Agent, Phyllis Wender. (May) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
In his new novel's opening chapters, Martin (creative writing, Ohio State Univ.; Quakertown) creates an idyllic vision of a small Indiana town in the 1970s before exposing its sinister undercurrents. Katie Mackey is the nine-year-old daughter of the man who owns the glass factory, the town's main employer. One summer evening, she rides her bike to the public library to return some books and never returns. Suspects include Mr. Dees, the lonely and eccentric high school teacher who was tutoring Katie in math, and a construction worker named Raymond, who has befriended Dees and might in fact be blackmailing him. Even Katie's father and teenage brother are not who they seem. The events swim inside the heads of these characters, as well as that of Raymond's wife, Clare. Martin shifts back and forth in time, skillfully dropping clues, countering readers' expectations, and building tension. Combining elements of family fiction, psychological thriller, and small-town nostalgia, this book is written in lyrical prose that will engage readers of all types. Highly recommended for all fiction collections.-Reba Leiding, James Madison Univ. Libs., Harrisonburg, VA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Few things cause as much distress as the abduction of a little girl; second-novelist Martin (Quakertown, 2001) milks that situation for all it's worth in a multiply narrated story. Katie Mackey is nine and lives with older brother Gilley and her parents in the small town of Tower Hill, Ind. The Mackeys own a glassworks, the town's largest business, and Katie is a child of love and privilege, aglow with innocence. On the other side of the tracks is Henry Dees, a lonely bachelor and math teacher, who is Katie's private tutor this summer of 1972. His neighbor is the equally lonely widow, Clare Mains, who has taken up with the self-styled Raymond R., a new arrival and, like Dees, victim of a grim childhood. Ray is not well liked for his know-it-all ways and synthetic folksiness, but Clare, all heart and no brains, is charmed, and marries him. Then, on a perfect summer evening, Katie disappears. Earlier that day, Dees had kissed her and then felt ashamed. He has an out-of-control crush on Katie, having snuck into her bedroom and taken some of her hair. Ray knows all this and has blackmailed Dees, but it's Ray, Dees claims, who took Katie for a ride that evening. It will be days before Katie's body is discovered. While the killer's identity is fairly clear, Martin sustains a nagging doubt, serving his theme of the shattering of small-town innocence, the guilt behind the Norman Rockwell facade. Katie's parents feel this guilt as they recall the abortion they agreed on when they were 18. Dees feels it as he acknowledges he had been "dumb to his own mysterious heart." The searchers for Katie feel burdened by "the weight of all their sins." Small wonder, then, that in time Katie's murder will leadto vigilante justice and another missing body. Likely to gain attention for its perennially haunting theme, but a little too manipulative to have lasting value.
“With what consummate skill Lee Martin conjures up a small town in the grip of tragedy and how deftly he explores the way in which a casual remark, a brief kiss, a white lie can have the most terrible consequences. The Bright Forever is a remarkable and almost unbearably suspenseful novel.” —Margot Livesey, author of Banishing Verona and Eva Moves the Furniture
“Lee Martin’s The Bright Forever goes deep into the mystery of being alive on this earth. Written in the clearest prose, working back and forth over its complex story, and told in the dark, desperate, vivid voices of its various speakers, it holds you spellbound to the end, to its final, sad revelations.” —Kent Haruf, author of Eventide and Plainsong
“Like Winesburg, Ohio, The Bright Forever captures, in alternating voices, the individual acts of desperation that lead to a community’s sorrow. And, like Sherwood Anderson, Lee Martin is not happy to let guilt reside singularly or simply. This is a morally complex quilt, a page-turner that also insists on the reader’s participation in moral contemplation.” —Antonya Nelson, author of Female Trouble and Talking in Bed
“I read The Bright Forever in one sitting. I couldn’t put it down. Part Mystic River, part Winesburg, Ohio, this harrowing and beautiful book is one of the most powerful novels I’ve read in years and heralds the breakout of a remarkable talent.” —Bret Lott, author of A Song I Knew by Heart and Jewel
“The Bright Forever will get under your skin with its exquisite psychology and fine-tuned suspense. Lee Martin has created a world of aching beauty and terrible loss.” —Jean Thompson, author of City Boy and Wide Blue Yonder
“The Bright Forever is ravishing. . . . Lee Martin’s characters, dear readers, are us—riven and bedeviled, our souls gone grainy and rank, our hearts busted and beating heavily for love. We have Martin to thank for having the moral courage—yes, an old-fashioned but rare virtue—to tell it to us plain.” —Lee K. Abbott, author of Living After Midnight