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Long Bright River
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Group Read - Long Bright River > Group Read - Long Bright River 0-25% Spoilers Welcome

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message 1: by Ann (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ann (annrumsey) | 14410 comments Spoilers welcome discussion topic for 0%-25% of Long Bright River. If the first to post please briefly summarize to guide the discussion and try to explain where the narrative cuts off if possible.


Geri Section ends: For the first time in 5 years, I contact my sister. “Kasey”, I write, “I’m worried about you. Where are you?”

-Mickey drives her new partner, Lafferty, around the Philadelphia neighborhood she patrols.

- A dead body of a woman is found. They are thinking she was murdered since it looks like she was strangled.

- then: Mickey tells story of the beginning of her sister’s addiction and the first time she found her dead (Mickey thought so) from an overdose.

- Mickey comes home to her son, Thomas. She tells landlady if Simon (Thomas’ father) comes by again, tell him they have moved.

- A month after finding the dead body, Mickey can’t let the case drop.

- Mickey and Kasey on a school trip to the ballet. As the class is being shuffled out, Kasey punches a boy who made a rude comment about Mickey’s dress.

- Mickey asks to work without Lafferty. Officer arrives to tell the squad about 2 more women found dead.

- Alonso tells Mickey he has heard that Kasey is missing.

- then: Mickey tells us about her mother. Her mother was also a drug addict and why she died.

- Mickey talks about her father. Her grandmother tells Mickey her father got her mother hooked. Ten years later, Mickey finds out her father had died.

- Mickey tells us about an officer who she liked and he befriended and mentored her.

- We find out that Officer Clear is Simon, Thomas’ father.

- Mickey checks when Kacey was last brought in. It was a year and a half ago. Mickey makes a list of people to interview about Kasey. Mickey also checks Facebook fo clues. Last time Kasey has posted was a month ago. Mickey messages Kasey.


OMalleycat | 1448 comments Thanks for the summaries, Geri!

I totally get why Dennis Lehane liked this book: it’s so Lehanesque! He always has a setting that is very much part of the story. Several of us have remarked in his past books that the setting was almost a character in his books. Well, Kensington certainly qualifies as a character in this book with Mickey’s telling of the development and deterioration of Kensington’s disposition over time. The setting by itself brings a very distinct atmosphere to the story.

Which brings me to another Lehanesque quality: the brooding mood. The story is very sad, both personally in Mickey’s biography, but also in the larger context of the despair and self-destruction of the community.

Anyone have any ideas about why Liz Moore eschews quotation marks in the dialogue? Only it’s not really dialogue; it’s Mickey reporting what was said. Lack of quotation marks makes it seem there’s no guarantee that we read exactly what was said. My guess is it emphasizes the story is all in Mickey’s head, strictly her point of view without exterior facts to confirm her impressions. At first I was afraid this could mean another unreliable narrator, but Mickey seems pretty sensible and factual so far. But I’m reserving a little suspicion of her.

I’m worried about Ahearne, Mickey’s sergeant. He’s so dismissive of her without any apparent good reason. Especially his stonewalling about the murdered woman Mickey and Lafferty found made me think he had some ulterior reason for keeping her out of the loop—possibly having to do with Kacey?

There’s also obviously more to Truman’s story. At this point I’m wondering what it is and if it has any bearing on Ahearne’s hostility or Kacey’s disappearance.

I’m unclear about whether Simon Cleare works for the same police department Mickey does. It seems unlikely because it seems like it was a bad break-up and they’d be always running into each other. But Mickey grew up in Kensington and met Simon at the after school program (yuck, by the way) and now works for the Kensington PD, so . . .I’m confused.

I’m also concerned about Mickey’s emphasis on developing Thomas’ intelligence and knowledge base. It’s eerily parallel to Officer Cleare’s relationship with teenage Mickey. Mickey obviously loves Thomas and is doing her best with him but I’m struck by the several mentions of her working to develop his intellect. Young Mickey felt intelligence was her secret weapon. She’s so self-contained and emotionally repressed. I hope she doesn’t pass her excessive emotional restraint and distance on to Thomas.


Where’s Kacey? Do we know everything we need to know about Mickey’s parents and Gee? What happened between Mickey and Simon? What’s Truman’s story? So much mystery! I’ve got to stop posting and get back to reading ASAP. It’s been a while since I’ve read such an unputdownable book!


message 4: by Ann (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ann (annrumsey) | 14410 comments Thanks for the summaries Geri! I have not stopped at 25% on my audio listen as I was walking today up to 40% and like Jan O'Cat said, "this book isn't one to easily put down".

Jan O'Cat - Such interesting comments! I used quotation marks above, but since I am listening I had no idea that the author eschewed them in the print text. How odd and yes, I can see it would be distracting and a bit unnerving while print reading.

We must always keep our wits about us and look out to the unreliable narrator. I think Mickey seems reliable, though neurotic for sure (With her grandmother and childhood responsibilities for her sister / and experiences, no wonder)

I was blown away by the title reference to the "first time Mickey found her sister dead". The long-bright-river as it related to the vein in her arm near the injection site was chilling and caused an audible gasp from me.

I also am curious about Mickey's previous partner Truman and why her sergeant is so hostile to her. The one flaw of Mickey's that seems to spell potential downfall is her inability to let others know when she doesn't know something or to own up to not being perfect. This seems to be an ulcer in the making at the least, and a potential for disaster - and certainly not good for relationships.


message 5: by Barbara K (last edited Feb 03, 2020 11:27AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Barbara K | 414 comments I listened not read and so I didn’t see the lack of quotation marks. But the sense I got from the narration is that Mickey is telling her story with an intentional lack of affect. Maybe omitting the quotation marks is an effort to communicate Mickey’s suppressed emotions?

I definitely kept thinking of Lehane and his tight-knit Boston neighborhood throughout the book. Ditto for Tana French’s “Faithful Place” In Dublin. Add in the impact of the opioid epidemic and I was put in mind of Julia Keller’s rural West Virginia in her Bell Elkins series. That also has the good sister/fallen sister theme.

I am also among those who raced through the book, enjoying every minute.


Geri I’m glad everyone is enjoying the book as much as I did. I agree the setting came alive. It was dark and gritty, but so engrossing.

Yes, it was jarring when Mickey talked about “the first time she found her sister dead.” This is definitely a heartbreaking story!

I also listened to the audio. And did not know about the question marks. Hence why I thought Mickey’s sergeant was O'Hearn not Ahearne. LOL The theories of why Moore did this, seem like good reasons to me.


OMalleycat | 1448 comments Ann wrote: "but since I am listening I had no idea that the author eschewed them in the print text. How odd and yes, I can see it would be distracting and a bit unnerving while print reading. "

Ann, the lack of quotation marks didn't really strike me at first when it's all Mickey and Lafferty. It seemed like a style befitting police: terse and to the point resembling police reports: "Witness states he has acid reflux." But when the medical team, detective, and forensics arrive at the crime scene Moore had to find a way to distinguish who's speaking among the mob.

The "dialogue" is set up line by line just as usual with dashes instead of quotation marks:
Saab and Jackson bend down too.
--Oh yeah, says Saab.
--What, says Lafferty.
I raise my radio to my mouth.
--Possible homicide, I say.

It's not at all difficult to follow who's talking but still distances the reader from the other characters. It's odd that punctuation marks have such power--as I said in my previous post, for me at least the style injects a little doubt that Mickey is reporting exactly what others say or everything they say.

Barbara wrote: "But the sense I got from the narration is that Mickey is telling her story with an intentional lack of affect. Maybe omitting the quotation marks is an effort to communicate Mickey’s suppressed emotions?"

That's a good point, Barbara, because it does remind me of a police report: succinct and just the facts.


message 8: by OMalleycat (last edited Feb 03, 2020 12:51PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

OMalleycat | 1448 comments Ann wrote: "I was blown away by the title reference to the "first time Mickey found her sister dead". The long-bright-river as it related to the vein in her arm near the injection site was chilling and caused an audible gasp from me."

Oh yes, Ann. I was first blown away by "The first time I found my sister dead. . ." and I briefly wondered if the book had some unsuspected paranormal elements, but it soon was evident that Mickey means "found her near dead," which is even more mind blowing to think about happening several times.

And then the title reference. Do y'all get the book's epigraph on audio? "Long bright river" is from a poem, The Lotos Eaters by Alfred Tennyson. One of the verses is one of the book's epigraphs. I'll copy it here in case you didn't get it.

"But, propt on beds of amaranth and moly,
How sweet (while warm airs lull us, blowing lowly)
With half-dropt eyelid still,
Beneath a heaven dark and holy,
To watch the long bright river drawing slowly
His waters from the purple hill—
To hear the dewy echoes calling
From cave to cave thro' the thick-twined vine—
To watch the emerald-colour'd water falling
Thro' many a wov'n acanthus-wreath divine!
Only to hear and see the far-off sparkling brine,
Only to hear were sweet, stretch'd out beneath the pine."

This is a fairly innocuous piece of a sad poem and the long bright river can seem just a geographic description when taken alone--a Greek mirror of the Delaware River flowing past Philadelphia to the "sparkling brine" of the Atlantic.

But after seeing the horrifying reference to the Kacey's vein being a long bright river I started remembering from high school that the Tennyson poem is about drug use and looked it up. Here's a link to the whole poem if you're interested: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem...

In the beginning of the poem the gleaming river flows from “inner land” —permanent, mountains—to the sea. It’s an evocative image for Kacey, life force flowing outward to be rendered a drop in the ocean. So sad!

Lotos isn't a drug in the sense we think of them but Odysseus' men are definitely drugged after eating the lotos. They lose all motivation and wish only to remain on the island eating lotos until death, not having to work, not being thrown from one sorrow to another. They think their families have forgotten them and it will only cause confusion to return to home. It’s altogether melancholy and hopeless and a great image of drug addiction.


OMalleycat | 1448 comments Ann wrote: "The one flaw of Mickey's that seems to spell potential downfall is her inability to let others know when she doesn't know something or to own up to not being perfect."

Poor Mickey. Having at the age of 5 to become a mother to her sister. Always being the responsible, dependable one without any nurturing or warmth or connection from anyone around her. No wonder she is so guarded!


OMalleycat | 1448 comments Barbara wrote: "I definitely kept thinking of Lehane and his tight-knit Boston neighborhood throughout the book. Ditto for Tana French’s “Faithful Place” In Dublin."

I hadn't thought of Tana French, Barbara, but you're right. Her books, especially Faithful Place have that completely enveloping sense of place that seems to do half the author's work in establishing a mood and story arc. Think of the woods in In the Woods, the weird unpopulated suburbs in The Trespasser and Broken Harbor, Ivy House and the garden in The Witch Elm.

Maybe it's something about the Irish. I think Moore mentioned the Irish as the settlers of Kensington and, although she doesn't particularly emphasize ethnicity, lots of the characters have Irish surnames.


OMalleycat | 1448 comments Geri wrote: "I also listened to the audio. And did not know about the question marks. Hence why I thought Mickey’s sergeant was O'Hearn not Ahearne."

And now I've compounded misnaming him, Geri. It's Ahearn without the final "e." Simon Cleare really does have the final "e" though. Maybe it's our antipathy for Ahearn that makes us miscall his name.


message 12: by Ann (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ann (annrumsey) | 14410 comments Jan O'Cat: Wow, thank you for adding the epigraph text and added background for the opening verse. The audio does open with the poem but I rarely get the same impact listening to an opening verse as I would in print and able to reflect.
Realizing this was the beginning, I waited to start listening to try to pay more attention later... twice; but finally gave up and moved past it. Thanks for connecting it for us!


message 13: by OMalleycat (last edited Feb 04, 2020 10:39PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

OMalleycat | 1448 comments Ann wrote: "Jan O'Cat: Wow, thank you for adding the epigraph text and added background for the opening verse. The audio does open with the poem but I rarely get the same impact listening to an opening verse as I would in print.”

LOL Ann. A long ago poster on the Book Nook Cafe used to say she didn’t have the “poetry gene.” I’m going to borrow that as a self-characterization.

I had to read the epigraph several times to get it and that’s with having studied the poem in high school. When I looked at the entire poem it seemed Moore had chosen the most obscure and least interesting stanza except for that chilling image of the “long bright river” carrying life force from the center of the island out to the sea. THAT image was the million dollar winner.

Editing to say I just scrolled up to read the epigraph again and having just posted on another thread about Simon’s grooming of Mickey, that long bright river “drawing slowly his waters” puts me in mind of Simon slowly, irresistibly drawing Mickey to him. It’s a great metaphor for any type of addiction. And the echoes and water twining through the vines makes me think of Mickey hearing murmurings of her true self despite the deeply rooted, confining twisting of her life.

That’s the thing about poetry—a meaning for every occasion.


message 14: by Ann (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ann (annrumsey) | 14410 comments True, Jan O'Cat:
I am trying to develop my poetry gene and to enhance my ability to listen and more fully experience poetry. I still prefer to print read so that I can consider the words in my own pace.
The podcast, The Slowdown, curated by Tracey K. Smith, former poet laureate for the US (2017-2019) is a daily favorite
https://www.slowdownshow.org/



OMalleycat wrote: "that long bright river “drawing slowly his waters” puts me in mind of Simon slowly, irresistibly drawing Mickey to him. It’s a great metaphor for any type of addiction. And the echoes and water twining through the vines makes me think of Mickey hearing murmurings of her true self despite the deeply rooted, confining twisting of her life.

That’s the thing about poetry—a meaning for every occasion."



Sandi (sandin954) | 1200 comments Thanks for the summaries Geri.

I will just echo that I too have been totally engrossed so far. At first I thought the lack of quotation marks would be off putting but it does seem to fit with the overall tone of the narrative.


Bonnie | 382 comments OMalleycat wrote: "Thanks for the summaries, Geri!

I totally get why Dennis Lehane liked this book: it’s so Lehanesque! He always has a setting that is very much part of the story. Several of us have remarked in his..."


I think Mickey is so focused on Thomas being smart and reading because she sees it (rightly IMO) as a way for people from the neighborhood she grew up and works in to make it in life. She may also feel guilty that because of her need to be near and look out for her sister she stays there and doesn't look for promotions.


Bonnie | 382 comments "Add in the impact of the opioid epidemic and I was put in mind of Julia Keller’s rural West Virginia in her Bell Elkins series."

sounds like a series I need to check out.


Bonnie | 382 comments I think it sounds stoic even when talking off horrible trauma. How she had to be with the way she was raised and the responsibilities she took. Avoiding emotion and panic attacks.


OMalleycat | 1448 comments Bonnie wrote: "I think it sounds stoic even when talking off horrible trauma. How she had to be with the way she was raised and the responsibilities she took. Avoiding emotion and panic attacks."

Bonnie, I think you’re exactly right. Mickey has to keep everything at a distance because there’s so much trauma in her life. It’s a coping mechanism. And I think the book needs some distance from the action for the same reason—readers need a coping mechanism too!


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