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This Bright River

3.54  ·  Rating details ·  753 ratings  ·  149 reviews
Ben Hanson's aimless life has bottomed out after a series of bad decisions, but a surprising offer from his father draws him home to Wisconsin. There, he finds his family fractured, still reeling from his cousin's mysterious death a decade earlier.

Lauren Sheehan abandoned her career in medicine after a series of violent events abroad. Now she's back in the safest place she
Hardcover, 464 pages
Published June 26th 2012 by Reagan Arthur Books (first published January 1st 2012)
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Average rating 3.54  · 
Rating details
 ·  753 ratings  ·  149 reviews

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Sep 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
We begin with a collection of crimes.

From their midst emerges Benjamin Hanson, thirty-two, and yet another well-educated misfit whose slacker tendencies managed to derail his life. Fresh from a two-year stint at a minimum security prison for an act that exemplifies the tragic laxity of his awareness, Ben has been put on course by his parents and directed to his hometown. The Wisconsin residence of a deceased uncle has been vandalized by carousing teens. He's instructed to assess the damage and
Jul 06, 2012 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 ...more
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. 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
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), or Sherman Alexie's Indian Killer, a book that takes him to a much, much darker and crazier place than ever before, though it is maybe not as ultimately dark as Lake. ...more
John Luiz
Jul 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Jul 15, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
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.
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
Sarrah Oliver
I mainly liked the Wisconsin setting and all the references to places I know. A messed up murder mystery/family drama.
Feb 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2012
NOTE: After you read this novel, you should read this account by the author of how badly Janet Maslin of the NYT misread it, likely torpedoing its reputation and commercial potential.

My review for this novel was first published by The New York Journal of Books in 2012. I reproduce it here:

Patrick Somerville’s first novel was a charming little fable about a man dispatched by his pregnant wife to retrieve her stolen childhood cradle before their baby’s birth. Weighing in at less than 200 pages,
T. Greenwood
Jun 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 26, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: arc, june-2012-read
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
Aug 04, 2012 rated it it was ok
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?
Caroline Nelson
Aug 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
I found this to be a great beach/vacation read. A well written story that keeps you guessing!
Sep 12, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: x2012-reads
The first half of the book was totally different than the second half. I loved it... And then felt betrayed that it turned into some kind of suspense/thriller novel.
Oct 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Early on, I almost put this one down but something made me stick with it and I'm glad I did. Compelling themes, interesting characters, suspense, and much more!
May 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.
Jun 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
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,
Robbins Library
Sep 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: jenny-recommends
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
May 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
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
Lisa Creane
Jul 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The book was not perfect, and because it involves puzzling through some past events until they make sense I kept thinking, afterward, about whether this could have happened, really, or whether it would have been more like that. And that's why the book was amazing--it engaged me so fully in the story that I kept thinking though the plot lines from the two main characters' points of view and going back into the book, after I finished it, to see how far back it had been foretold.

Beyond the plot,
Aug 22, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Marc Kozak
Oct 27, 2013 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.
Jun 07, 2012 rated it it was ok
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).
Sep 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A novel of love, thoughts and breadth...something unexpected. I haven't flown through a book this fast in a while, but it was so damn smart and readable.

The characters were very well drawn, even minor ones. In one of my updates I said this book was like a conversation, and I stand by that.

The author seems to be having a conversation with the reader in such a way that I cannot wait to read more of his work.
Aug 17, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Jul 14, 2012 rated it it was ok
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.
Oct 04, 2012 rated it it was ok
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.
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I'm a fiction writer from Wisconsin, living in Chicago.