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The Bright Forever

3.49  ·  Rating details ·  3,949 Ratings  ·  610 Reviews
On an evening like any other, nine-year-old Katie Mackey, daughter of the most affluent family in a small town on the plains of Indiana, sets out on her bicycle to return some library books.

This simple act is at the heart of The Bright Forever, a suspenseful, deeply affecting novel about the choices people make that change their lives forever. Keeping fact, speculation, an
Kindle Edition, 304 pages
Published (first published May 3rd 2005)
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May 13, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Readers of The Lovely Bones and Frederick Busch's Girls
Shelves: brilliant
The Bright Forever by Lee Martin is not only a thoughtful contemplation on the nature of regret but also a dynamic page-turner that this reader could not put down. The story itself is truly riveting, and the characters are so real that I felt totally drawn into their world. One of the book's greatest successes is that Martin makes the character of Katie come so alive in the beginning of the book that as the narrative progresses the reader cares deeply about finding out what happens to this sweet ...more
Jul 21, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Barbara by: Susan Sherwin
Lee Martin's sad, but compelling novel has remained in my thoughts as I mull over the events and their significance. He has written a deeply nuanced, complex account. A lovely nine year old girl, from a widely respected, affluent family, has disappeared. The story is narrated in the voices of various inhabitants of town. These speakers blend seamlessly and vivdly to recount their simple lives and their actions relative to the missing child.

Life in this small, insignificant,Indiana town during a
Joan Winnek
Apr 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Joan by: Barbara
I lived in Indiana in the 1940's, and this book perfectly evokes the horrible summers. The handling of various points of view was masterful: we understand each narrator and his/her flaws. Henry Dees emerges as a sympathetic character--lonely, yearning for connections in life he has missed, acutely aware of his mistakes and the quirks in his character that have contributed to them, an intelligent, gentle, dignified man.
If I had to choose a few words to describe this novel, it would be a raw examination of guilt, somberly illustrated through the everyday lives of small town individuals, their loneliness and unspoken sacrifices relating to the murder of a treasured nine year old girl.

Avid readers will immediately recognize Lee Martin's novel's similarities to Alice Sebold's iconic novel (also made into film), The Lovely Bones. With not only near identical core storylines (The older, friendless, seemingly graciou
Nov 01, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved the voices in this book. The Bright Forever tells the story of the disappearance of Katie, an engaging 9 year old. Each chapter is narrated by one of the main characters. It reminded me Jodi Picoult's style of story telling. By the end of the book I felt empathy for all of the characters.
Sonya Serial Reader
S'il faut résumer ce roman dans un seul mot ça sera: REGRET! une vraie contemplation réfléchie sur la nature du regret, mais aussi un page-turner qu'on ne peut lâcher une fois entamé.

chronique complète sur mon blog:

S'il est des romans qui brillent d'emblée par le style de l'écriture, Cet été-là en fait certainement partie. Ce qu'on pourrait prendre à tord pour de la préciosité s'avère être un soin exceptionnel apporté à la narration, sans fioritures et sa
Mar 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
Okay, so I have to fess up and say that I almost missed out on reading this book because I feared it would be a "Lovely Bones" knockoff. There are the obvious similarities, from the missing girl and the emotional effects of her disappearance, right down to the same bare blue cover with only a charm bracelet adorning one book, a lock of hair the other. But I can assure you that "The Bright Forever" is a beautiful (and tragic) book in its own right, and should be read independent of any comparison ...more
Jul 02, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
My mind boggles that this book was a Pulitzer prize finalist for fiction. It depresses me to think this is the level of writing that was considered possible prize winning fiction in 2011.

Everyone in this story is a blank and they all lived in one very small town. To think the desperate teacher, Mr. Dees was (just to name one odd side of his nature, afraid to try on a jacket in a store) was around any children gave me the creeps. The writing was not even very good, just unusual in that occasiona
Mar 27, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition

This book was absolutely horrible. The storyline was disgusting and reminiscent of the Jon Benet Ramsey media story. I found the story repulsive and sickening. It reminded me of The Lovely Bones but that was much better written.
JG (The Introverted Reader)
Dec 07, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to JG (The Introverted Reader) by: Pat
On a beautiful July evening, nine-year-old Katie Mackey disappears on her way to the library. And our hearts break.

I just don't know where to start. It's hard not to compare this to Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones , but there's a huge difference. As I remember it, The Lovely Bones dealt with the family's grieving process through the years following Susie's death. The Bright Forever follows the immediate aftermath of Katie's disappearance. All the rage, despair, hope, shame, suspicions, and "wha
May 22, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: university, 2007
"If you want to listen, you’ll have to trust me. Or close the book; go back to your lives. I warn you: this is a story as hard to hear as it is for me to tell."

I have very mixed feelings about this book. First and foremost, had this not been assigned for class, I would have taken the character up on his offer and closed the book. This kind of literary device seems amateurish, stemming only from a writer’s insecurity. And unfortunately, it occurred all throughout the book. While I understand it w
I don't know what to say: This book is absolutely amazing. The story is about the kidnapping (and death? I will not ruin this secret) of a little girl from a small Indiana town in the 1970's. The point of view shifts often, from the mother, father, brother, to the teacher, neighbor, etc., even including the viewpoint of the abductor him/her self. While this could have been morbid and horrifying, the book is surprisingly light and easy to read; not in a fluffy, bubble gum sort of way, Martin is a ...more
Jun 16, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was equally engrossing and disturbing. I'm actually surprised I chose to read it as it was about the disappearance of a little girl. Comparisons to Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones will surely come to mind, but the books are nothing alike. I enjoyed this book so much more than Sebold's novel, which at times, could become a little trite.

It has 5 different narrators, and even with this multi-narrative, the author creates deft characterizations. You get a very rich understanding of what m
Boyd Addlesperger
Loneliness, loss and the eggshell thin veneer of happiness are central themes in this tightly written, highly disturbing novel. Martin wastes hardly a word as he weaves a narrative using the voices of those intimately involved in the disappearance of a 9 year-old girl. Lives crumble and the story spirals toward an ending you both expect and, because of a late twist, don't expect. Martin is an immensely talented story-teller.
Amanda Sells
Mar 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The synopsis on the back of the book doesn't give too much away. Gives you just enough to be curious. The story itself is heartbreaking, but amazingly written. I like the style the author took in writing it from everyone's point of view. It caught me off guard in the beginning but that was the part that kept me from wanting to put it down. Just waiting to get to the next characters POV. Sad story but great book.
Aug 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lee Martin’s heartbreaking The Bright Forever is a novel of small details and giant events, an honest-to-God page-turner, and a notable achievement. His economical use of plain language and his focus on revisited details help the novel to read, in some sense, like a short story. That is, there is hardly a wasted word or image; everything is purposeful, but not to the point of feeling over-determined. But Martin’s awareness of narrative arc elevates this book from being merely a series of small t ...more
Jan 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As I read this hard-to-put-down novel about the disappearance of a much loved little girl I kept wondering how such a harrowing and suspense filled story could also be told with such tenderness. The answer comes from Lee Martin himself in an essay he wrote about small towns. He says writers have the responsibility to tell their stories plainly and with respect for people and the stories they can’t easily tell about themselves. That’s exactly what he has done in this beautifully written novel, se ...more
This story definitely held my attention and I kept reading because I wanted to know what really happened to Katie.

However, there were a few elements of the author's style of writing that I didn't care for - for example, it started out by Mr. Dees saying this is his story and he would be telling it when actually it is told by several of the characters and the author. I think I would have preferred just hearing from the characters and would have incorporated the background the author thought nece
Aug 10, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The back cover introduces the situation: "On an evening like any other, nine-year-old Katie Mackey, daughter of the most affluent family in a small town on the plain of Indiana, sets out on her bicycle to return some library books"
I will credit the author for telling this tale in plain, speaking language from several characters' points of view. However, this proved to be a bothersome subject - and not just because of the prolonged answer to the obvious question: "What happened to Katie Mackey?"

Jul 20, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a poignant suspenseful story about the disappearance of nine-year-old Katie Mackey, the daughter of one of the most affluent families of the Heights, a small Indiana town, and two men from neighboring working-class Gooseneck who might be responsible for Katie's disappearance. The first of the men is Raymond R, a pretty sketchy character, who is married to trusting,unsuspecting Clare, after the death of first husband. The second of the men is Henry Dees, a lonely stange-duck-math teacher ...more
Rosalie DeFilippo
Jun 11, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book in two days, not because I enjoyed it, but because I paid money for it (rather than checking it out from the library) and I simply wanted to hurry up and finish it so that I wouldn't have to read it any longer. To be honest, I did speed read through some chapters because I just didn't have patience for the horrible writing and unnecessary details that served no purpose other than filling pages. I cannot agree more with the comment another reviewer left, which is that it boggles ...more
Jan 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: keepers
I read this book several years ago and still think it was one of the most compelling books I have ever read. Told from the perspective of several citizens in a small, rural town, it is the story of a little girl's disappearance. But it is also the story of the town, itself, and the secret lives of many of its residents. The mystery unfolds slowly, the creepiness factor building and snaking its way through the short chapters with chilling certainty to the eventual revelation of what happened and ...more
Mar 03, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This isn't a fun book to read, and is actually quite painful both in it's subject matter and it's telling. The focus of the story is on the psyches of the novel's troubled, tortured characters, their lives deeply troubled and, in some sense ruined by a little girl's disappearance on the way to return a library book. The narrative slips back and forth in time and perspective, flitting from character to character and yet always rooted in the words of Henry, the social outcast whose silent eyes cap ...more
Kelly Humenansky
Sep 11, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was a definite page-turner for me. A review on the back says, "Part Mystic River, part Winesburg, Ohio," and I would add part Lovely Bones, part Criminal Minds, and snippets from a bunch of short stories. Told from a variety of perspectives, including the voice of the town as a narrator and a completely unreliable, nerdy, bachelor math teacher narrator, the story moves quickly and left me guessing even when I thought I had it all figured out. For me, a good book is all in the style of ...more
Fred Daly
Sep 17, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This was my Community of Readers book; I took it on because so many kids chose it that we needed more sponsors. It's about a missing girl, like The Lovely Bones, but not nearly as good. I found the writing slow and repetitive, and a lot of what happens strains credulity. I just didn't think people would behave the way some of the characters in this novel do. Plus, the author likes to whang you over the head with people's motivations. What keeps you going is the mystery, but he makes a very mecha ...more
May 24, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In a small quiet Indiana town, a sweet sparkly 9 year old girl disappears. What has happened to her? Who is responsible?

The story is told through the voices of a number of different characters -- her brother, her tutor, several other townspeople. The story is gripping and I couldn't stop reading until I knew exactly what had happened and who was responsible.

One of the treasures of this story is the fact that the author makes us care about all the characters -- they all have complicated lives and
Aug 30, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: enemies
what a disappointment! this book as well as the known world make me wonder what the hell's wrong with the pulitzer people. Martin's novel has the most common, boring prose i've seen in a while. i didnt care for or what happened to any of the characters and the dialogue-especially that of Raymond R. was pathetically annoying. every seedy slang phrase that a b-movie hick hustler would say was put into use- unconvincingly. i guess i dont feel so bad for Martin's lack of talent as i do the inexplica ...more
Jul 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book in 2005 when it first came out but pretty much forgot everything about it until I found it on my shelf last night. I really did enjoy it, even if I did find it a little strange. I kept wanting to come back see what was going on, because I was never quite sure who to believe. You don't really get the final pieces of the puzzle until the end. I even felt some sympathy for Mr. Dees. I'd definitely recommend this for someone looking for something compelling to read.
Aug 14, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a completely absorbing, well-crafted novel--very clear why it was a PUlitzer Prize finalist. WHat I like most about the book was how complex my relationship with the narrator was. More than any book I've read recently, it elicited very strong emotional responses form me toward the narrator -- I was angry with him, felt trust, lost trust...went through a whole emotional cycle. Great read!
Feb 04, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The setup for this novel is suspenseful, but the follow-through is not. The author knows from the onset exactly what has transpired and spoon-feeds it to the reader in annoyingly tiny sips. The strength of the piece is in its character development, but I couldn't help but think that it would have been more involving with fewer viewpoint characters.
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Lee Martin is the author of the novels, The Bright Forever, a finalist for the 2006 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction; River of Heaven; Quakertown; and Break the Skin. He has also published three memoirs, From Our House and Turning Bones, and Such a Life. His first book was the short story collection, The Least You Need To Know. He is the co-editor of Passing the Word: Writers on Their Mentors. His fictio ...more
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“The measure of a man's character is what he would do if he knew he would never be found out.” 18 likes
“When someone you love disappears, it's like the light goes dim, and you're in the shadows. You try to do what people tell you: put one foot in front of the other; keep looking up; give yourself over to the seconds and minutes and hours. But always there's taht glimmer of light-that way of living you once knew-sort of faded and smoky like the crescent moon on a winter's night when the air is full of ice and clouds, but still there, hanging just over your head. You think it's not far. Your think at any moment you can reach out and grab it.” 14 likes
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