Ben Hanson grew up as a privileged pothead with not particular direction. Lauren, labeled early on as a genius, always knew she would be a medical doctor. Life takes the two St. Helen’s, Wisconsin residents on separate paths. Ben makes a series of unintelligent choices, leading to a stint in a minimum security prison. Lauren abandons her medical career after a series of violent incidents abroad. Both move back to their hometown. Here, their lives begin to intertwine in unexpected ways – with the hope that they might be exactly what each other needs.
This novel is part mystery, part thriller, part rumination of life – altogether it’s entirely marvelous. The story alternates from Ben and Lauren’s perspective, giving insight into their backgrounds and choices. This novel reads a bit like a puzzle, with only little bits and pieces revealed at a time (I should also add that I thought it was a very fine, well paced puzzle to complete). Ben is quietly hilarious. Lauren is endearingly prickly. By the end, I was genuinely invested in the direction their relationship would take, which says a lot (of good things) about the novel. This Bright River is an immensely enjoyable read, I’d rate it 4/5 and recommend it for people who enjoy a fairly quiet, introspective novel with a bit of mystery mixed in.
Also of note, this novel originally received a harsh New York Times review, but apparently part of the prologue was misread by the reviewer. For more information on what a simple mix up can do, read “Thank you for killing my novel” by the novel’s author Patrick Sommerville.
Ben’s a vegetarian, but his favorite saltine and peanut butter snack doesn’t really do it for me, I thought I’d recommend my favorite basic tomato-basil pizza (though I’d recommend making this dough to go with it). Basil makes everything better (says the bacon hater).
Photos: mine via instagram, williams-sonoma.
8 thoughts on “This Bright River by Patrick Sommerville”
I LURVED this book. I’ll be buying it for everyone I know. Best thing I’ve read in ages.
Wasn’t it great? And it flew quite far under the radar. His collection of short stories is quite good too (The Universe in Miniature in Miniature).
I hate it when great books fly under the radar. This deserved lots of attention. Of all the people I follow on Goodreads you were the only one who had read it. I will now become a one-woman marketing machine for this book. I plan to read his debut too.