Saturday, February 28, 2015

Book Review: "The Long and Faraway Gone" by Lou Berney

I'll be honest: the first thing that drew me to Lou Berney's The Long and Faraway Gone was the lettering of the title on its cover. (Admit it: it's happened to you before, too.) Because it looked similar to some other books I've enjoyed recently (particularly Marian Palaia's The Given World), I was intrigued.

And then I started reading the book...and was instantly hooked. Holy wow, this book is fantastic.

"The past had power. The past was a riptide. That's why, if you had a brain in your head, you didn't go in the water."

In 1986, two separate crimes rocked Oklahoma City. In a rundown movie theater, six employees were killed in a robbery, although one mysteriously survived. And then at the State Fair, Genevieve, a teenage girl, disappeared after leaving her younger sister on the midway for a few minutes. No answers were ever found in either crime.

Twenty-five years later, Wyatt, a private investigator in Las Vegas, is asked to do a favor for a friend and look into a case in Oklahoma City involving a relative of his wife. The young woman, who was bequeathed a rundown music club by a man she knew vaguely, has become the victim of strange, harassing incidents, ostensibly to get her to sell. But while the case itself proves more challenging than he thinks it is, returning to Oklahoma City dredges up more memories than Wyatt can handle, and reminds him of questions he never could answer.

Julianna was 12 years old when her sister Genevieve disappeared. Despite the fact that the police never were able to figure out what happened to her, Julianna has never given up trying to solve the mystery, at the expense of her relationships, her career, and often her sanity. When a person from those days re-emerges, she is willing to risk everything she has to find the answers she so desperately needs.

"The landscape of memory was like that. Sometimes the near seemed far, far away and the faraway was right beneath your feet."

This book is so powerfully written, so compelling. If you've ever found yourself unable to move on from something that once happened to you, you can identify, although perhaps only on a small scale, with these characters. And they're wonderfully memorable characters, so desperate to move on with their lives but utterly unable to pull themselves away from the past. This book is both hopeful and sad, and Berney did such a great job shifting perspectives between Julianna and Wyatt, and from past to present.

I had never heard of Berney before, but I am definitely interested in reading his earlier books. He's a tremendously talented storyteller, and The Long and Faraway Gone was just a fantastic book.

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