Kemper's Reviews > The Long and Faraway Gone

The Long and Faraway Gone by Lou Berney
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really liked it
bookshelves: 2018, crime-mystery, detectives

This book may be the perfect example of a character driven crime story.

In 1986 two major crimes occur in Oklahoma City. A robbery of a movie theater turns into a massacre. A beautiful teenager goes missing while attending a fair. Both events are major news, but as with most things time passes and eventually they’re forgotten. But not by Wyatt and Julianna.
Wyatt was the sole survivor of the movie theater staff, and 25 years later he’s changed his name and moved to Las Vegas where he’s a private investigator doing background checks for casinos. Julianna is the sister of the missing teen who still lives in the area and is haunted by the loss.

When a major client ask him to go to Oklahoma City for a case Wyatt is reluctant to revisit his old hometown, but soon finds himself caught up in the memories of that fateful summer. Julianna is still obsessed with learning what happened to her sister, and she desperately latches on to any slim clue that might offer her answers.

This book is a little bit tricky in that its tone at first reads like a PI novel with Wyatt being a cheerful guy whose style comes across as smart ass even when he doesn’t mean to. His investigation into the harassment of a woman who inherited a bar at first seems like a major plot that you assume will somehow eventually intersect with his and Julianna’s story somehow.

What you eventually realize is that what’s really important here are the parallel stories of Wyatt and Julianna’s trying to deal with the aftermath of what they went through. They took completely different approaches. Wyatt fled his old hometown and has done everything he can not to think about it, but as he revisits his old haunts in OKC the old survivor’s guilt and questions begin to bubble up. Julianna has actively been looking for the truth for over two decades, and her behavior has become obsessive and self-destructive. Even though they’ve taken different paths in dealing with their pain what becomes clear over the course of the story is that the unanswered questions have haunted them all along.

The book didn’t go where I expected at all, and if you’re looking for some kind of thriller where it all dovetails together nicely, you’d probably be disappointed. Instead what we get is a more realistic thing where the two stories intersect in the small random ways that would happen in a small city. Some mysteries are solved, some aren’t, and some new ones arise. The real question here isn’t whether Wyatt and Julianna will ever know exactly what happened and why, it’s if they can ever get over the guilt and grief to get on with their lives.

Also, as a lifelong resident of the Midwest it’s also nice to get a work of fiction that portrays characters from somewhere other than New York or Los Angeles as real people rather than just stereotypical jokes or rubes in flyover country.

Great read, and I’m happy to hear that Lou Berney has a new book coming out this fall. I’ll definitely be checking it out.
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Reading Progress

February 11, 2015 – Shelved
July 19, 2018 – Started Reading
July 31, 2018 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-8 of 8 (8 new)

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message 1: by Nancy (new)

Nancy Nice review, Kemper. I'll have to check this out.


Kemper Nancy wrote: "Nice review, Kemper. I'll have to check this out."

It's a really nice piece of work.


message 3: by Paquita Maria (new)

Paquita Maria Sanchez I've been wanting to read this! As it happens, Oklahoma fiction is a bit on the rare side.

I do, however, have to point out that OKC is totally not a small town. It's no NYC, but we have roughly the same # of people as somewhere "big city" like Portland or Vegas. Ain't no simple country folk no more!


message 4: by James (last edited Aug 01, 2018 11:17AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

James Thane Great review, Kemper. I have really enjoyed all of Berney's books, this one especially, and am really anxious to read November Road. He'll be at my local bookstore on October 9, which is the day the book releases. Should be a very nice event, and I assume it will be live streamed at www.poisonedpen.com.


message 5: by Kemper (last edited Aug 01, 2018 11:32AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kemper Paquita Maria wrote: "I do, however, have to point out that OKC is totally not a small town. It's no NYC, but we have roughly ..."

Oh, I didn't meant to imply that it is at all. You got a NBA team!

That's why I called it a 'small city' not a 'small town'. As someone who lives in Kansas City I just think that while still urban that there's a difference between cities this size vs. NYC or Chicago or LA, and I think that's what Berney was tapping into it - that's it's possible that a group of people in the area at the same time about the same age might have been grazing across each other a lot. It's not the small town thing where they'd all definitely know each other, just more likely that paths would cross even if they weren't always aware of it.


Kemper James wrote: "Great review, Kemper. I have really enjoyed all of Berney's books, this one especially, and am really anxious to read November Road. He'll be at my local bookstore on October 9, whi..."

You always get the best authors. I am very jealous.


James Thane Kemper wrote: "You always get the best authors. I am very jealous. ..."

As I think I may have said before, a lot of these events are live streamed and they do archive them, so if you're interested you can sort through and pick out the ones you want to see.


message 8: by Paquita Maria (new)

Paquita Maria Sanchez Ohhh, I get ya!


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