In choosing fiction, my preference is for narratives driven by emotion rather than action – I want to be in a character’s head and to know what they are feeling, as opposed to being a bystander, ‘watching’ what happens to them.
Long Bright River by Liz Moore is very much an action-driven story. It tells of two sisters, Mickey and Kacey, whose lives begin in the same troubled home but then take very different paths . Kacey lives on the streets of Kensington, Philadelphia, addicted to heroin, and doing what she has to do to feed her habit. Mickey also knows the streets of Kensington but that’s because she joined the police force. Although the sisters are estranged, Mickey keeps an eye out for Kacey. When a string of unsolved murders occur – the victims all young women with drug habits – Mickey fears for her sister.
Long Bright River is classed as a mystery. The suspense moves at a good pace – a few twists and turns but not so much that it becomes implausible. And although there are clues throughout, I didn’t guess ‘who dunnit’, so it held my interest until the end. However, this story had themes that offered the opportunity for much greater emotional depth, including what it means to act honourably; the impact of addiction on a family; and ambiguous grief. Kacey and Mickey’s mother died from an overdose when they were young. Mickey reflects on this while feeding her newborn baby, Thomas –
‘…for the first time I understood the choice my own mother had made to leave us – if not by design, then by her actions, her carelessness, the recklessness with which she sought a fix. I understood that she had held me – us – in her arms, and gazed at us as I was then gazing at Thomas. She had held us like that and had decided to leave me, to leave us, anyway.’
Notably, that was the only quote I highlighted in my copy of the book – the rest was largely ‘police procedural’.
I was interested to read an interview with Moore, whose own family experience with addiction had influenced the novel. The interview hints at the stuff I wanted from Long Bright River – an examination of relationships, and the complexities of loving someone who is doing the ‘wrong’ thing. But the original inspiration for the novel came from photographer Jeffrey Stockbridge’s Kensington Blues project (trigger warning), where he documents the human cost of opioid addiction. The images and videos captured by Stockbridge are devastating, and it’s like watching Long Bright River come to life.
3/5 Solid, as far as mysteries go.
I received my copy of Long Bright River from the publisher, Penguin Random House UK, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
Mickey makes (and burns) brownies to take to Thanksgiving.
Chefs share ‘healthy’ brownies here – they sound good but honestly, the only brownies I bake are Donna Hay’s super quick, fail-proof food processor brownies (put 1 1/3 cups plain flour, 2 ¼ cups sugar, ¾ cup sifted cocoa powder, 4 eggs and ¼ teaspoon baking powder in a food processor. Add 250g melted butter and process until smooth. Pour into a lined 20cm square cake tin and bake at 170° for 40 minutes. Jazz them up by adding chocolate chunks, or raspberries…or beans…).
As part of the 20 Books of Summer reading challenge, I’m comparing the Belfast summer and Melburnian winter. The results for the day I finished this book (Jun 27): Belfast 10°-17° and Melbourne 5°-14°.