Thursday, November 5, 2020

Book Review: "Long Bright River" by Liz Moore

Although it's marketed as a thriller, Liz Moore's Long Bright River is more of a compelling story of a complicated relationship between two sisters and the events that sent them down the paths they travel. But even though it's not a thriller per se, it's still a tremendously well-written and emotional story.

Mickey and her younger sister, Kacey, used to be inseparable. From a young age, Mickey felt a need to protect Kacey, even though she was powerless to keep her from getting addicted to opioids, a common occurrence in their suburban Philadelphia neighborhood. After numerous instances of trying to pull Kacey out of trouble and help her get clean, the sisters drift apart and couldn't take more disparate paths: Mickey becomes a police officer while Kacey turns to drug dealing and prostitution to support her habit.

While the sisters cross paths periodically as Mickey is on patrol, they haven't spoken in some time. But when Kacey disappears right around the time a number of young women are winding up murdered, Mickey begins to fear more for her sister than she has in some time. She is determined to find her sister—and the murderer—before it's too late. But she'll need to contend with a supervisor who doesn't seem particularly motivated to find the culprit, a tangled web of family relationships that are difficult to navigate, the challenges of raising a five-year-old son on her own while occasionally dealing with the boy's father, and the guilt she feels for not being able to protect Kacey from all she faces.

The book alternates between past and present. It follows the sisters' relationship from childhood and the various challenges they dealt with, through to their estrangement, and there are some surprises thrown in for good measure. It also follows Mickey's investigation into the murders and her search for answers, as well as her desperaate hope that her sister doesn't become the next victim.

I enjoyed this book a great deal and found it was a powerful and emotional read. It's a poignant look at how we can choose to rise above the circumstances we are born into and raised in, or choose to be a victim, and how hard it can be to change your trajectory when you've fallen so far. It's also searing commentary about the opioid crisis in our country, which cuts down too many people.

Liz Moore is a terrific writer. I've read her last two books, Heft and The Unseen World, and each story she tells is so different. As long as you don't go in expecting a thriller, I think you may find this a really worthwhile read you'll remember.

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