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).