This Bright River
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This Bright River

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3.57 of 5 stars 3.57  ·  rating details  ·  539 ratings  ·  128 reviews
Critics hailed Patrick Somerville's first novel, The Cradle, as a "magical debut" (Chicago Sun-Times), one that "calmly, relentless pulls at the Gothic skein of family tragedies" (Washington Post), "a deeply gratifying modern fable" (The New York Times). With his new novel, Somerville more than makes good on that early promise, telling a powerful story about a young man tr...more
Hardcover, 464 pages
Published June 26th 2012 by Reagan Arthur Books
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oriana
Jul 06, 2012 oriana marked it as to-read
I'm not totally sure this sounds like my kind of book, but holy crap, check out this crazy story. The book was given a pretty damning review in the Times, but it became immediately apparent that the critic had misread an early scene, and therefore wrongly interpreted the entire plot. Another person from the Times then reached out to the author to verify this mistake—via a fake email address set up for one of the book's characters. They all—the Times person, the author, and the character—worked t...more
John Luiz
I eagerly anticipated this novel because I thoroughly enjoyed The Cradle. This novel is very different, though, and a much more ambitious work. The Cradle told its story in a straightforward fashion as a husband is sent out on a mission by his pregnant wife to find an ancient cradle her mother had when she was a child - and in that quest he discovers something much more vitally important to her. The story in This Bright River unfolds in a far less linear pattern. Two characters, Ben and Lauren,...more
Bobby
Wow! I believe I have a new author that I absolutely adore. Patrick Somerville has a unique gift with characterization and his prose is both charming and deep.

The characters in This Bright River are profoundly real. I found myself immediately engaged with the protagonist in particular. I cared about him and I cared about those he knew and those with whom he was interested. As the secondary protagonist emerges, I similarly cared about her. I became so involved that I turned page after page well...more
Carol Hassett
There are very few books which I do not finish but this one was close. I struggled to get thru it. Found it rambling and confusing and boring. The author could have cut it by 200 pages and maybe then it would have been more bearable. I hate to give bad reviews because I appreciate the time and energy the author spent writing the book but I can't find anything good to say about it.
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this review, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

Sometimes I'm very glad that I've never met Chicago author Patrick Somerville, because it lets me do full critical reviews of his work without the taint of a personal bias; and that's especially welcome in the case of his newest novel, This Bright River, because it's a stunner that turned out to be one of...more
Michelle
4.5+ stars. Holy crap, this was a great book. Something about loveable loser protagonist Ben and prickly also vaguely loser-ish Lauren, not to mention the awe-inspiring, perfect prose, all these things combined to make a ridiculously engaging, delicious book. The only reason this didn’t get a full five stars is there is a plot turn late in the book that took me totally by surprise but not in a good way. Looking back, it wasn’t actually a surprise but I didn’t 100% buy into the wrap-up, family se...more
Sasha
I cannot say enough good things about this book. I think I have 5 pages left. I can say that it's been over a year since I read anything I felt this invlved in, that I honestly dreaded putting the book down because I didn't want to not be reading it. I can say it's been even longer since I felt this invested in characters. I can say that reading this book made me feel a little more alive. Or, that it made me feel more. That my capacity for feeling increased as I read the book. It is a very good...more
Michael
My review for this novel can be found here:
http://nyjournalofbooks.com/review/br...

I've been on a good roll lately, reading lots of terrific novels, and This Bright River is no exception. Somerville's first novel, The Cradle, was a charming little fable; this time he swings for the fences and delivers a roomy, heartfelt, cerebral philosophical thriller. Highly recommended.
Roy
I was truly disappointed in This Bright River. All of the characters were profoundly unhappy and dysfunctional, and the dialog among them was boring and pointless. I cannot figure out what the good reviews are so pumped about. I'd love to heard from my Goodreads friends who liked this book. What am I missing?
Lindsey
I loved the writer's voice - or should I say the voices of his characters? They were incredibly realistic, flawed in a believable and beautiful way.
Leeswammes
This is about thirty-something Ben, who returns to his childhood town to do up his deceased uncle's house with the intention to sell it. He meets a former class mate, Lauren, and they hook up together. Both of them have skeletons in their cupboards and in Lauren's case, her past comes back to her with a vengeance. There are a few thrilling moments when both their lives are in danger.

I had a mixed reading experience with this book. Sometimes I found the story compelling and I wanted to read on, w...more
Donna
Ben Hanson's life reached rock bottom when he made some bad decisions and, thus, ended up in jail.
Lauren Sheehan's life as a medical doctor came to a halt after a lot of violent happenings abroad.

Now, both Ben and Lauren are back in St. Helen's, Wisconsin. Ben is here to take care of closing up his uncle's house and getting it sold. Lauren is in St. Helen's because it's the safest place she knows; away from friendships, career and romance. This is the town that Ben and Lauren had grown up in and...more
Robbins Library
This Bright River is a family novel, a suspense/mystery novel, and a love story all in one. It is a compelling read with a great sense of place (St. Helens, WI, and Michigan's Upper Peninsula). It is different from Somerville's previous novel, The Cradle: it is longer, it has multiple narrators, the reader is sometimes unsure of the narrators' reliability.

The story centers around two characters. Thirty-two-year-old Ben Hanson has returned to his small town in order to clean up and sell his uncl...more
Chaitra
What did I just read? Why did I read this? It's an overlong, tedious, obtuse piece of work. The shifting narratives make it almost impossible to read. Somerville confuses things by having two stories of the same type, why not just have one? Why was there such drama? And why was this 450 pages long, and didn't actually manage to reveal anything?

There's the screw-up pothead Ben. He was tried for arson for a completely ridiculous reason. His parents are somehow able to put him in a white collar pri...more
David Schaafsma
I was inclined to love this book, as The Cradle was the best book I read the year it came out, very moving, beautifully and powerfully written. So my expectations were high.. and they were met. Gorgeous writing, terrific, right on, dialogue. I am tempted to say that this is Somerville's IN the Lake of the Woods, (by Tim O'Brien), a book that takes him to a much, much darker and crazier place than ever before, though it is maybe not as ultimately dark. It IS about darkness of the human spirit, of...more
T. Greenwood
What a wild weird ride this book is.

This Bright River tells the respective stories of Ben (a sort of hapless guy who has returned home to Wisconsin after a brief stint in prison) and Lauren (a haunted woman who is also returning to her home town) as well as what happens when they come together. It's all prefaced by a prologue (which you may have heard about here -- though don't read this unless you've finished the book) which hooked me initially and then plagued me throughout (thank God it all...more
Lou
A good memoir of sorts of a few characters pursuit of happiness.
There was some nice and poignant moments that readers could relate to.
This started off well and then drifted into more flat land with no taking off, I think it would have been more captivating if it was shortened. There seemed to be no real middle or end no drive to the story to keep you in the story. As I came back to the novel and started picking up where I left off from I gradually started to have a disdain for the characters a...more
Nick
I started out loving it, but gradually turned against this book. In the end I feel disappointed and annoyed. The good things--dialogue, characters, and humor--were outweighed by the bad. It got increasingly cryptic and convuluted as it went on. I still don't understand certain key things, such as what exactly happened to Lauren at the hands of Will. Can anyone tell me? Too much violence at the end. Not that I am intrinsically against that, but it just never made sense that any of the characters...more
Full Stop
Jun 12, 2014 Full Stop added it
Shelves: summer-2012
http://www.full-stop.net/2012/07/13/r...

Review by Courtney Mauk

In This Bright River, the past flows into the present through meandering tributaries, adding its own cold waters to the current. This metaphor, represented by the presence of several rivers and river systems, runs throughout the book in obvious, yet mostly organic, ways: characters talk about rivers, look at rivers, get into rivers. Some swim, fall asleep or pass out, are carried downstream. One is deposited on a strange bank, where...more
Marc Kozak
May 30, 2014 Marc Kozak marked it as abandoned
Only the third book I've ever abandoned. I could only make it about 25 pages. The prose was so so so bad -- it was like reading something by a snarky blogger, but in novel form. Attempts at being clever on every page, and awkward modern references to stuff like McDonalds, Quiznos, PDFs, and INXS (which just doesn't sit right with me in novels).

Maybe it's a little unfair as I just got done with a book by a prose master in Gabriel García Márquez, but this seemed too ameteurish to continue.
Christy
Part mystery, part physiological thriller, part stream of consciousness, this book did keep me turning pages if only to find out how things ultimately tie together. The first chapter is a seemingly random stand-alone that makes sense later. Then you have 50-60 pages of the same narrator, then someone else jumps in to narrate. Eventually it ties together, but the whole thing is very dark and almost every character has depression problems (or worse).
Susan
Not sure what to think of this one. It started out really great but got bogged down in some really long abstract monologues, the characters' motivations were kept cryptic, and there were so many plots twist right near the end that it was too much. But there was a lot of intelligence, humor, philosophy, etc. and good writing along the way as well.
Gabe Kalmuss-Katz
Sommerville is a fine prose writer but this novel is terribly plotted. It never decides whether it wants to be a novel of ideas, a character portrait, or, as the book jacket would tell you a "family drama." Because it dips its toes in so much, nothing sticks and everything feels simultaneously abrupt and prolonged.
Patrick44
I am 2/3 through it and finding it a struggle. I give it credit for holding my interest in the outcome. However, I can't forgive an author (and the editors?) who allow the use of incorrect grammar in the writing.
Kappy
The writing was good, which kept me reading and I had read the author's first book and liked it. However, this book became more tedious as I continued and the characters became tiresome in my mind.
Cathy
First hundred pages, I loved this book, second hundred, uh-oh, not so much, ended up wanting to be done with it
Dora
Shorthand Review -- more violent than I expected, but made me love the characters, a little mystery as a bonus.
Zach
I'm lucky I got to read this.
Linda Bouley
This book could have been fantastic and I only finished it because there were stretches of brilliance that spurred me on. The characters were quite well drawn & the story interesting and mysterious in that th reveals were spaced enough to make you want to know more about what had happened. Ben Hanson is one of those intelligent college educated drifters who spurns his family's wealth and manages to aimlessly get himself into scrapes or ways of living that keep him in a circle of sorts. Ben h...more
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63096
I'm a fiction writer from Wisconsin, living in Chicago.
More about Patrick Somerville...
The Cradle The Universe in Miniature in Miniature Trouble: Stories This Bright River: A Novel Trouble and the Shadowy Deathblow (Electric Literature's Recommended Reading)

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