Long Bright River: A Novel

Long Bright River: A Novel

by Liz Moore


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"[Moore’s] careful balance of the hard-bitten with the heartfelt is what elevates Long Bright River from entertaining page-turner to a book that makes you want to call someone you love.” – The New York Times Book Review
"This is police procedural and a thriller par excellence, one in which the city of Philadelphia itself is a character (think Boston and Mystic River). But it’s also a literary tale narrated by a strong woman with a richly drawn personal life – powerful and genre-defying.” – People
"A thoughtful, powerful novel by a writer who displays enormous compassion for her characters. Long Bright River is an outstanding crime novel… I absolutely loved it."
—Paula Hawkins, #1 New York Times- bestselling author of The Girl on the Train

Two sisters travel the same streets, though their lives couldn't be more different. Then one of them goes missing.

In a Philadelphia neighborhood rocked by the opioid crisis, two once-inseparable sisters find themselves at odds. One, Kacey, lives on the streets in the vise of addiction. The other, Mickey, walks those same blocks on her police beat. They don't speak anymore, but Mickey never stops worrying about her sibling.

Then Kacey disappears, suddenly, at the same time that a mysterious string of murders begins in Mickey's district, and Mickey becomes dangerously obsessed with finding the culprit—and her sister—before it's too late.

Alternating its present-day mystery with the story of the sisters' childhood and adolescence, Long Bright River is at once heart-pounding and heart-wrenching: a gripping suspense novel that is also a moving story of sisters, addiction, and the formidable ties that persist between place, family, and fate.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780525540670
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/07/2020
Pages: 496
Sales rank: 210
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.70(d)

About the Author

Liz Moore is the author of the acclaimed novels Heft and The Unseen World. A winner of the 2014–2015 Rome Prize in Literature, she lives in Philadelphia.

Reading Group Guide

1. The author sets Long Bright River against one city’s experience of the opioid epidemic, informed by her own research. To what degree do you think the drug crisis in Kensington represents the situation in other regions of the United States? Did reading the plight of Kacey, and its impact on her sister and larger family, make you think about the epidemic any differently? How did the portrayal in the book compare with your understanding of the problem from news, or from your personal life?

2. In this novel, the author combines a crime story with a family drama, as she moves back and forth between present and past, and sets it all against a real and researched city and culture. Which elements moved or compelled you most? Did knowing it was influenced by real life make it more or less powerful for you?

3. While Kacey and Mickey grew up in the same house, they followed vastly diverging paths in adolescence. In what ways were the girls different by nature? Or was it a matter of nurture? Which differences do you think most influenced their fates, and why? What impact did these differences have on their relationship as children, and as adults? What do you think the author is ultimately saying about the connection between family and fate?

4. The author explores the pressures that are put on single parents, juggling child care and an unpredictable work schedule. Did Mickey’s life make you see this in a new way? How did you feel about the ways she manages this juggling? What about the ways she manages her child’s relationship with his father? Do you think such pressures would be different for a man?

5. The vividly drawn neighborhood of Kensington plays a crucial role in the book, becoming almost a character itself, with its own history. How does the author’s portrayal of Kensington contribute to the larger story? Consider the different characters’ feelings about this place, its role in their personal lives, histories, and struggles.

6. Mickey’s Philadelphia is a melting pot of haves and have-nots. What do we learn about class and privilege, and the way they are manifested in the lives of the characters? Consider in particular the times when social tensions emerge as a result of class. Do any of the characters demonstrate class mobility or the ability to socialize across these carefully-drawn lines?

7. How does Mickey’s outlook on justice and the methods and culture of the police department compare with that of her superiors and partners? How do these outlooks compare with your own observations and opinions? In this time of heightened tensions between civilians and police, what do you think about the larger relationship between the police and the community as seen in Long Bright River? Do you think it’s an authentic portrayal?

8. The author explores the concept of addiction in multiple ways in this story. Beyond the obvious heroin addiction, what other kinds of compulsion do you see? For instance, addiction to work, to the chase, to power, to a certain kind of sex or love or support? What role do these other forms of compulsion play in the story? In what ways is the author interested not just in the effects addiction has on the person suffering from it, but also in the effects on that person’s family and friends and, ultimately, community? Which scenes or relationships show this most powerfully?

9. Over the course of her life, Mickey has had many mentors, including Officer Cleare, Mrs. Powell, and even Truman. What impact does each relationship have on the development of Mickey’s character? In what ways do these mentorships dictate her future decisions?

10. Do you think Mickey’s life and profession would have turned out differently if she had been able to go to college as she initially hoped? Would such an education have changed her fate? Why or why not? If not, what would have changed her fate? Or did she end up in the best place for herself, regardless?

11. After their mother, Lisa, dies, Mickey and Kacey are left to live with their grandmother Gee, but Mickey begins to play the role of a pseudo-mother to Kacey. Analyze the mother-daughter relationships presented in the novel: Gee to Lisa; Lisa to Mickey; Gee to Mickey and Kacey; Mickey to Kacey; Mickey to Thomas. How are these parenting styles different, and in what ways are they similar?

12. What is the novel saying about the development of community and the importance of neighbors? Consider the role of Mrs. Mahon in the story, and of the informal network of relationships that Mickey and Truman have with shopkeepers and others on the Avenue. What different types of communities are portrayed in the book?

13. The author launches several mysteries in the course of the story. The biggest and most obvious are established early on: Who is killing young women in the neighborhood, and what has happened to Kacey? Were you surprised by the resolutions of these questions in the end? Were you more surprised by the information that is revealed, or by the way in which emerged Did you have competing suspicions or theories?

14. There are also several smaller mysteries or questions propelling the storytelling, such as what is going on with Truman, or with Gee, or with Mickey’s other relatives, or what happened in Mickey’s past to bring her and her child to this new apartment. Some of these are mysteries only to the reader, as certain information is slowly released by the narrative; and some of these are mysteries to Mickey as well. Which unknowns compelled you most, and why? Which surprised you most? Did you see any of the revelations coming, and if so, when and why?

Customer Reviews

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Long Bright River: A Novel 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
sue scheller 8 days ago
thia is not an easy story. It is told so well that it can be depressing but its also an important story. A story about families who are imperfect but love is there and so is forgivness
Ms-Hurst 5 days ago
Long Bright River is a story about family and the addictions that are tearing apart our country. I was expecting a murder mystery, and it is in there, but it was so much more. Philadelphia, like much of the country, is struggling with opioid addiction. Sisters Mickey and Kacey have gone in two different directions. Raised by their grandmother after their mother's death and father's disappearance (both because of drugs), Mickey became a cop and Kacey became an addict. The beginning and end of the book contain lists of people who have succumbed to addiction. It seems that no one in the city is untouched by the epidemic. Mickey looks for her sister when she is on patrol. Even having to arrest her at times. Suddenly, Kacey is no longer on the streets. No one has seen her in a month. Meanwhile, someone is using the addicted as targets, strangling them and leaving them thrown out like garbage. Micky is worried that her sister is connected to these murders. She's hoping that her sister has not already become a victim. The real story is about how drugs split families. How in some places it is unthinkable to NOT know someone addicted or who has died due to addiction. That was the part that was alien to me. Of course, I know people who have been addicted and people who have died, but in my daily life I don't have to think about the opioid crisis. It's not close to me. Here, it is close to everyone. I can identify with Mickey more than I would like to think, though. Mickey is the "good" sister. She's the one who has never been in trouble, got good grades, and is somehow the black sheep of the family for it. She has made big mistakes, too. She is an outsider in her family for her choices but she truly believes she is doing what she should be doing. Mickey tries to do what is right but much of her life choices are reactionary or fearful. Mickey's search for her sister and her flashbacks as she faces her own past mistakes are the real story. The murders are in the background. This is the story of family and addiction, and the murders are what happens to people that are seen as throw away; addicted and without their family. Those people are always easy targets, so that part of the story is just an extension of what is happening to the city. We have people on our streets who can disappear without anyone ever knowing they are gone. That is the real crisis. That we have people who are always at risk and that they are often our most needy citizens. Thank you to Netgalley, Liz Moore, and Riverhead Books for the advanced copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.
litpixie 9 days ago
I like messy books. The books that show just how messy relationships and life can be. Long, Bright River is one of those messy books. It shows the way we can hold onto behaviour that we didn't like as children and how we pass that on to our children. It shows how family members can love and hurt in equal measure. And it's a story about a serial killer that doesn't focus on police procedure. It's the story of a woman who is an officer, but who has a life outside of the force. This is definitely one of those books you should read for 2020.
Alfoster 16 days ago
This is one of those books that I started reading and then realized I'd just inhaled it as I couldn't get through it fast enough! Part police procedural, part mystery, part thriller, and most of all family drama, the novel revolves around Mickey, a policewoman in Kensington and her sister, Kacey who walks the same streets as a sex worker in the throes of addiction. As adults, these two women couldn't be more different, but as alternating chapters reveal their childhood growing up together, we see the bond that connects them is stronger than they know. And when Kacey goes missing in the midst of several murders in the area, Mickey is determined to find her and save her from an early death. Moore's prose is eloquent, yet realistic, and the storyline moves along quickly as Mickey gathers clues about what happened to her sister and just who could be behind the savage murders. This is one of those novels that will resonate with me for a long time! Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!
DG_Reads 17 days ago
I received a complimentary Advance Listener Copy of LONG BRIGHT RIVER by Liz Moore for an honest review. Thank you to Libro.FM and Penguin Random House Audio for the chance to listen and review! I also selected this as one of my Book of the Month picks for December. LONG BRIGHT RIVER centers on Mickey, a single mom working as a street cop in Philadelphia where she gets a close up view of the ravages of the opiod crisis. Her own sister Kacey with whom she once had a close relationship is living the dangerous life of an addict and Mickey spends her time in fear that one day the body she is called out to find will be Kacey. As the book opens it has been a long time since Mickey last saw her sister and even those living the street life with her don’t know where she has disappeared to. She is therefore especially worried when it begins to come clear that someone has been murdering female addicts. Working both inside and outside of her scope of practice, Mickey is determined to find the culprit and her sister. This is not an easy read by any means. Kacey and Mickey were abandoned by their parents – their mother dying in an overdose and their father taking off. They were raised by a grandmother who mourned the loss of her daughter, but had little motivation to care for the grandchildren left to her to raise. For two sisters raised in the same situation, they wind up on very different paths. Mickey is heartbroken by her sister’s choices, constantly wondering if there was something she could have done differently as the big sister. The mystery element of the book was a slower build than perhaps I had originally anticipated as the story develops with a lot of flashbacks to give Kacey’s and Mickey’s histories to tell the reader how they got to this point. I didn’t at all mind the slower build in this case because the character development was very well done and kept me fully engaged. I think this novel did an excellent job of portraying the difficulty of addiction, something that is unfortunately a part of too many lives, from the way individuals feel stuck in their cravings to the way it impacts families. This was an incredible story and the audio was very well done in my opinion. This is dark and comes with a lot of trigger warnings related to addiction and violence, but it is absolutely a worthwhile read and one I would recommend.
miss_mesmerized 17 days ago
Two sisters who could hardly differ more. Mickey has always been the serious, more diligent one who went to school eagerly and was dreaming of a better life than the one they had at their not very loving grandmother’s. Kacey, eighteen months her junior, has always been the wilder, more adventurous girl who early pushed against the boundaries. Now, as grown-ups, they find themselves on opposing sides: Mickey has become a cop with the Philadelphia police, Kacey is highly addicted and working on the street. Mickey always has an eye on her younger sister even though they haven’t been talking for years. When several young and vulnerable women are killed, Mickey is highly alarmed since she hasn’t seen Kacey for several weeks. Liz Moore‘s novel is a brilliant combination of a mystery novel with the search for a serial killer and a very sad story about a dysfunctional family where problems are handed from one generation to the next and where an escape is not really possible not matter how hard you try. Even though it looks as if there were clear sides, the good sister Mickey and the bad sister Kacey, you realise soon that life isn‘t that easy and that both women are more like different and changing shades of grey. Mickey is a great protagonist in so far as she has a lot of interesting traits to offer. On the one hand, she is the hard working single mom who only wants the best for her son and constantly fears that she cannot live up to her own expectations. As a policewoman, too, she seems to do a great job, her family history helping her to understand the situation of the less favoured by life and those on the streets. That she suffers from constant misogyny in the forces does not really astonish. Yet, there are also other sides of the young women which only slowly unfold and show that there are a lot of lies she has been told by the people around her, but also lies that she told herself to shape the things in the way she wants to see them. The mystery parts about the serial killer and the search for the sister are full of suspense and have some unexpected twists and turns to offer. What struck me most was the feeling that a lot of what Moore narrates is actually very sad, none of the characters has much to look forward to in their life and all seems but too authentic. A novel which provides entertainment but also much to ponder about after the last page thus something not to be missed.
Katie__B 18 days ago
This one got off to a slow start for me but I will freely admit I'm having a hard time concentrating these days as life is a bit stressful right now. However, maybe about 100 pages or so into it, everything just seemed to click and at that point I became fully engrossed in the story. Sisters Kacey and Mickey no longer speak to one another. They grew up in Philadelphia and were raised by their grandmother. As teenagers their lives started heading down two different paths. Mickey worked hard and became a police officer. Kacey became addicted to drugs and started living on the streets. After a string of murders, Mickey attempts to check in on her sister, but Kacey has gone missing. Are the murders and Kacey's disappearance somehow related? There's a lot going on in this story and at first glance it might appear that this is just your average, run-of-the-mill mystery. However, I think the strengths of this novel are the relationship between the sisters and how addiction tore them apart. My favorite parts of the story were the flashbacks to when they were younger as it provided great insight into how they got to this point in the present day. I feel like you are better off going into this story more for the family drama rather than just expecting a mystery that's going to wow you. I'm not saying I thought the author did a bad job wrapping everything up, more I just think it is the least important element of the story. This book is over 400 pages and like I said I struggled a bit at the beginning but it does become a fast read after awhile. One thing to note is the author does not use quotation marks for dialogue. It's not difficult at all to follow what is being said though and it's so easy to adjust to that writing style. This is a dreary type read but worth reading if you want to see up close how addiction can destroy lives and relationships. I won a copy of this book in a giveaway by Goodreads and Riverhead Books. I was under no obligation to post a review and all views expressed are my honest opinion.