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Long Bright River
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Group Read - Long Bright River > Group Read - Long Bright River 75%-100% Spoilers Welcome

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

Ann (annrumsey) | 14413 comments Spoilers welcome discussion topic #4 for 75% - 100% of Long Bright River. If the first to post please briefly summarize to guide the discussion to the end.
What did you think of the book?


message 2: by Geri (last edited Jan 29, 2020 10:51AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Geri - Mickey finds Kasey and she tells Mickey she is pregnant with Simon’s baby and she is trying to get clean. Mickey questions Kasey how she can be sure who the father is.

- Thomas was born and drug addicted. Mickey takes the baby in. Simon wants a relationship with Thomas. Kasey did not give up Thomas willingly. Kasey has never been able to pass a drug test to get custody of Thomas.

- Mickey asks Mrs. Mann to babysit Thomas on Christmas. Mickey is searching for her dad.

- Mickey finds her father. He tells Mickey he got sober 10 years ago. He hired an ex-cop and he found Kasey and Mickey. He visited Kasey 4 months ago. He tried to visit Mickey he is told Mickey doesn’t live there. Kasey shows up, tells her dad she is pregnant and wants to get clean. He verifies Kasey is with him.

- Kasey doesn’t want to see Mickey. She has told her father what happened with Thomas.

- Mrs. Mann tells Mickey cops are looking for her. Another murder has occurred. Mickey finds out Mulvey was released because he had an alibi. Paula Mulroney was the murdered victim.

- Mickey at funeral for Paula. Women accost Mickey and tell her to leave. Kasey walks in. After a scuffle Mickey and Kasey walk out. Woman warns Kasey to be careful of Mickey.

- Kasey calls Mickey. She found out the gossip about Mickey. They think Truman is the one killing women and Paula.

- Mickey drives to Truman’s house. Mickey realizes it was Truman who first named Simon as a suspect.

- Tailing Truman, Mickey follows him to Mr. Wright’s store. He leaves with a large, black suitcase. She tracks him to a house. She lets herself in and aims her gun at Truman. Truman opens the suitcase. It has essentials to help a drug addict. They revive a boy on the floor.

- Truman admits he has been helping Mr. Wright.

- Mickey gets clarification from Kasey that the actual thing people are saying is that Mickey’s “partner” is to blame. Mickey realizes it might be Lafferty.

- Kasey visits Mickey’s apartment. Kasey reveals that Lafferty is Dock’s friend. She tells the story of how she got into a relationship with Dock. She got pregnant and they vowed to get straight. Dock slipped. When she told Dock, he beat her up. She relapsed and lived on the streets. Until she went to stay with Ashley. Mickey finds out O’Brien’s all lied to her at Thanksgiving. Gee tells Kasey her mother used drugs while she was pregnant with Kasey, but not with Mickey. She broke in at Gee’s and found the truth along with information about her father.

- Mickey allows Kasey to see Thomas. Kasey thanks Mickey for taking care of Thomas.

- Mickey finds her sister, Dock and Lafferty at a church. Mickey pulls a gun. Lafferty charges at Mickey, gun goes off and gun is taken from her.

Conner/Dock hands gun to Mickey. Kasey had contacted Truman and tells the arriving officers that Lafferty is the one they want.

- Mickey is shown a picture of Lafferty’s ex-wife. She was a drug addict and one of the women found dead.

Simon was investigated. He is hooked on oxy.

We learn that Lafferty was taking kick backs from Conner. Conner did not know about the women.

- Mickey quits the force. Mickey gives an anonymous interview about the sexual assaults. Mickey contemplates gong to college. And Mickey and Kasey stay in touch.

- Mrs. Mann and Mickey visit Kasey after her baby is born.


message 3: by Barbara K (last edited Jan 31, 2020 12:03PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Barbara K | 414 comments I’m always ahead or behind in group reads. . I just finished this and can report that I loved it. The descriptions of the insidious impact of opioids on an economically struggling community are deftly written. No overwrought language, but still very affecting.

I found Mickey’s growing self awareness equally moving. The internal push and pull between her desire to remake herself and her ties to her neighborhood and her family are beautifully expressed. The realization that the person she thought had been steering her in a new direction was actually grooming her for sexual abuse comes to her so gradually that it rings very true to me. Simon was for so long the only person who valued her intelligence, the side of her no one else found worthy, that it seems appropriate that she would be reluctant to embrace the truth about him.

Similarly, Mickey suffered so much emotional rejection from her grandmother that it’s not surprising that she was disinclined to expect support from other people.

I could go on about other elements of the book that I liked, but I do want to mention something at the end that I found just a little bit out of sync with the tone of the rest of the book. With the exception of Truman, the girls’ father, and Dock in the penultimate scene, all the men are corrupt if not downright evil. And all of the women, with the exception of Gee (and even she is provided with mitigating circumstances) are good. (Well, OK there’s that mother of one of Thomas’s friends who is a snotty piece of work.).

This just seemed a bit off to me. The rest of the book is painfully honest on so many levels that this came across as unnecessary. I’m a pretty ardent feminist, but I found drawing that line between genders was a bit much.

But none of that is enough for me to retract one of the 5 stars I gave the book.


message 4: by OMalleycat (last edited Feb 06, 2020 06:06AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

OMalleycat | 1448 comments Thanks for the great summaries, Geri. You have the gift that eludes me: succinctness.

Through the last half of the book I kept wondering how Moore would end it. As the sisters stumbled to the end, wounded yet surviving with glimmers of hope, I thought Moore’s conclusion was fittingly unsettled. There’s no way a book about addiction, corruption, and murder could be honest or consistent with an unequivocal happy ending. I kept hoping everything would be resolved while at the same time knowing it wouldn’t feel right if it were. I think the finale had the right tone and hints of believable futures for the main characters.

I was so pained by Thomas’ upset in this last section. Living with a chronically worried mother, in sometimes precarious circumstances, how could Thomas be anything but anxious? Life is hard for him and he tries to seize control by keeping Mickey at home. My heart bled for both of them when she decides, despite Thomas’ fears, that she has to leave and find Kacey and Dock. Mickey naturally thinks childhood is riddled with fears and worries. She had no comfort in childhood and had to cope as best she could. She expects Thomas to learn to cope.

I really didn’t expect Lafferty. I thought he was a minor character used at the beginning as a contrast to Mickey as we get to know her. It’s another indication of the insidiousness and pervasiveness of opioid addiction that he had an addicted wife. But unless I missed something there’s no explanation of why he went on to kill others. Because they were vulnerable and available? Because they threatened to out him for his sexual exploitation or graft arrangement with Dock?

Way back at the beginning 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. This seems to be an ulcer in the making at the least, and a potential for disaster - and certainly not good for relationships.”

You called it, Ann! I remembered your comment when Mickey, worrying about what would happen to Thomas if she doesn’t come back, reflects “I think of the choices my own mother made-and realize, painfully, that I am not so different from her after all. It’s only the nature of our respective addictions that diverged: Hers was narcotic, clear-cut, defined. Mine is amorphous, but no less unhealthy. Something to do with self-righteousness, or self-perception, or pride.”

Lots of varieties of addiction in this book and what a deep insight for Mickey, one that I don’t think she could have made at the beginning of the book. She’s had a powerful coming-of-age journey in the book.

I also thought back to the long bright river as Mickey remembers when she and Kacey slept together as children and Kacey would ask Mickey to put her hand on Kacey’s back. “In retrospect, I believe it is possible that I was trying to bestow some sense of worth upon her; to be the vessel through which our mother’s love poured, posthumously; to immunize her against the many hardships of the world.” Again that image of a flowing life force and this arm/river is comforting unlike the horrifying one of Kacey’s injected vein when she was dead the first time.

I’m glad Mickey has developed some resources, friends, and family at the end and Kacey is clean. But as they gather at the hospital I can’t help but realize their world is just as fragile as Kacey’s baby and how ceaselessly the addicted baby in the next crib wails until he gets his medicine. The world is a hard place.


message 5: by OMalleycat (last edited Feb 06, 2020 06:50AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

OMalleycat | 1448 comments Barbara wrote: "I’m always ahead or behind in group reads. . I just finished this and can report that I loved it. The descriptions of the insidious impact of opioids on an economically struggling community are deftly written. No overwrought language, but still very affecting."

I couldn’t agree more, Barbara. I think it’s the very spareness of the writing that gives it its power. It’s not “look at my writing!” It’s “live with these characters.”

Barbara also wrote: “ The realization that the person she thought had been steering her in a new direction was actually grooming her for sexual abuse comes to her so gradually that it rings very true to me. . .it seems appropriate that she would be reluctant to embrace the truth about him.”

Boy, that’s the devastating truth. Predators are so adept at selecting children who are deeply needy. Filling some of those needs tightly binds the child to them. Even as an adult Mickey calls Simon when she needs some support or someone to listen. At least she gets over that after the McDonalds encounter.

Barbara also wrote: “ With the exception of Truman, the girls’ father, and Dock in the penultimate scene, all the men are corrupt if not downright evil. And all of the women, with the exception of Gee (and even she is provided with mitigating circumstances) are good.”

I don’t disagree with you, but it didn’t bother me as much as it did you. I think of Mrs. Mahon’s lesson of the chess pieces. All the characters had some good qualities, some bad. Okay, I’d have a hard time finding good in Lafferty, and Gee’s single good act—raising the girls—is heavily disguised by her relentless negativity. But generally speaking the characters have both good and bad qualities.

Among the men, Davis Nguyen (admittedly barely known) is a good guy. DiPaola, despite a gruff beginning DID investigate Simon after Mickey’s allegation.

I’d also have to say the negative portrait of men is a function of being narrowly told from Mickey’s point of view. She’s a victim of abuse and works in a corrupt police department. And there’s the milieu: a neighborhood in which women are vulnerable and offer themselves up for exploitation. Awful men would be drawn into that orbit and therefore into Mickey’s life.

Still, I take your point. Maybe I have some problems. The dispositions of men and women characters just seemed so natural to me!😉


Barbara K | 414 comments OMalleycat wrote: "But generally speaking the characters have both good and bad qualities...."

Typically I manage to notice when women are portrayed in an unnecessarily negative way, not men, so I don't know what got into me with this book. :-) You're right about Nguyen and DiPaola. And what you wrote here really says it all:

I’d also have to say the negative portrait of men is a function of being narrowly told from Mickey’s point of view. She’s a victim of abuse and works in a corrupt police department. And there’s the milieu: a neighborhood in which women are vulnerable and offer themselves up for exploitation. Awful men would be drawn into that orbit and therefore into Mickey’s life.


OMalleycat | 1448 comments Barbara wrote: "With the exception of Truman, the girls’ father, and Dock in the penultimate scene, all the men are corrupt if not downright evil. And all of the women, with the exception of Gee (and even she is provided with mitigating circumstances) are good."

Barbara, I woke up this morning still thinking about this book—you know it’s a powerful book when it lodges that firmly in your mind.

Specifically I was regretting that Mickey so thoroughly burned her friendship with Truman and I realized that episode jibes with your observation about the gender-divided quality of character in the book.

Mickey goes after Truman because she believes the (misinterpreted) allegations of the women of the street over her trust of Truman built over 10 years of his support. Truman has been a “true man” but it’s another case of Mickey being unable to trust her feelings. She’s far more able to trust the women over her male friend.

Mickey is also trying not to repeat her past mistake believing Simon over Kacey when he denied having gotten her pregnant. Her family history and history of abuse are all an interlocking mess that render this smart woman unable to trust her judgment. In this case it leads her off on a dangerous mission that ultimately destroys her one true friendship. This is such a sad story.


OMalleycat | 1448 comments I’ve already said I never suspected Lafferty. Since Mickey didn’t suspect him and the book is all her POV, we’re given no clue.

But last night I was rereading the first chapters of the book to see if there was anything when Lafferty is “investigating” his wife’s—his victim’s—dead body.

There wasn’t, but I did find one teeny tell before the call to the body. On that first day when Mickey and Lafferty are patrolling the neighborhood, Mickey spots Paula and signals a greeting to her. Paula peers at Lafferty in the car and then turns her face away from Mickey.

Okay, I said teeny. I don’t really blame myself for not picking up on Paula’s aversion to Lafferty.


Bonnie | 382 comments Loved this book and it's insights into dysfunctional families, addicts, good and bad cops. I was disappointed in Mickey a little about not letting Kasey at least visit Thomas and letting Thomas know she was his birth mother. Since she still loved Kasey, and they didn't do a full clear adoption, she might have had a better chance at getting clean and out of prostitution years sooner if she still had that family support.


OMalleycat | 1448 comments Bonnie wrote: "Loved this book and it's insights into dysfunctional families, addicts, good and bad cops. I was disappointed in Mickey a little about not letting Kasey at least visit Thomas and letting Thomas know she was his birth mother..."

Bonnie, I agree with you that this was a terrific book.

I had very mixed feelings about Mickey not bringing up Thomas with a clear understanding of who his mother is. I just realized that I’m not sure Thomas even knew he was “adopted.” Does anyone remember any discussion of this.

Anyway, on one hand I get that Mickey was angry about his being born addicted and worried about Kasey somehow getting Thomas back and therefore keeping her out of his life altogether. On the other hand this is a secret that can’t be kept forever and it would be better if Thomas knew from the beginning. Otherwise it would just be weird and hurtful when he finds out. Even in ordinary adoptions it seems that the adoptee always finds out through needing a birth certificate or medical history. In this case, with Gee knowing and prone to telling painful truths, with Kasey still in the area if not directly in Thomas’ life, with all the cousins, it just seems highly likely that someone would eventually tell Thomas or let something slip. For an already emotionally fragile child that could be devastating.


message 11: by Ann (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ann (annrumsey) | 14413 comments Bonnie: I was disappointed that Mickey cut Kasey off from Thomas too. Mickey's need to control the few (very few) things that she could explains why she did that and it just adds to my sadness for both sisters and Thomas.

Bonnie wrote: "Loved this book and it's insights into dysfunctional families, addicts, good and bad cops. I was disappointed in Mickey a little about not letting Kasey at least visit Thomas and letting Thomas know she was his birth mother.

Since she still loved Kasey, and they didn't do a full clear adoption, she might have had a better chance at getting clean and out of prostitution years sooner if she still had that family support. ..."



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

Ann (annrumsey) | 14413 comments Jan O'Cat: I didn't suspect Lafferty either. Probably partly because he was a cop, and because like you mentioned, there weren't really any clues to notice and consider. It is extremely creepy that he was there for the discovery of his victim's (and his wife's) body.

OMalleycat wrote: "I’ve already said I never suspected Lafferty. Since Mickey didn’t suspect him and the book is all her POV, we’re given no clue.
But last night I was rereading the first chapters of the book to see if there was anything when Lafferty is “investigating” his wife’s—his victim’s—dead body. ….
I don’t really blame myself for not picking up on Paula’s aversion to Lafferty. "



Carol/Bonadie (bonadie) | 7904 comments Just finishing this and a couple of comments:

The discussion was excellent. I really enjoyed the insights you all brought to the story. I sort of wished I'd been reading along with you but one does what one can.

I didn't suspect Lafferty and didn't quite like that resolution. It felt like that came out of left field and I found Jan's comments about going back to see if there were any clues interesting.

I was also disappointed in Mickey that she suspected Truman based on Kacey's reports of the gossip. This is a common twist in mysteries but it felt like a real betrayal on Mickey's part, and I was saddened but not surprised that it seemed to be too much for Truman to forgive. Mickey needs all the friends she can get.

I didn't really blame Mickey for not telling Thomas about Kacey up to that point -- I can't quite trace back the timing but if he had bonded with Kacey only to have her drop off the scene it would have been hard on him. But I do hope that Mickey has a plan soon for telling him, for all the reasons you all have mentioned above.

Overall I enjoyed the book but there was a point in the middle that it seemed so dark and depressing that I wasn't eager to continue with it. The Mickey/Simon plot I found deeply disturbing, and her alienation from everyone around her was hard to get through. I did feel some optimism at the end that she'd reunited (sort of) with her father and Kacey, she's admitted Mrs. Mann into her life (again, sort of, I thought she'd wind up as the day care for Thomas but Mickey found someone else), and there seemed to be some chance that she'd connect with the reporter-mom of one of Thomas' school friends.


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

Ann (annrumsey) | 14413 comments Carol: I know what you mean about the depressing nature of Mickey's situation. I worried about Thomas with the atmosphere too, and with an inattentive babysitter and a Mom who obviously loved him but was clinging and protective is a way that didn't seem healthy.
Mickey was doing pretty well considering her own background and with the support of having a partner like Truman, and it was disappointing when she suspected him so easily. I sort of understood that she simply didn't trust anyone not to betray her, but it was still so sad.

Carol/Bonadie wrote: "Overall I enjoyed the book but there was a point in the middle that it seemed so dark and depressing that I wasn't eager to continue with it. The Mickey/Simon plot I found deeply disturbing, and her alienation from everyone around her was hard to get through.

I was also disappointed in Mickey that she suspected Truman based on Kacey's reports of the gossip. This is a common twist in mysteries but it felt like a real betrayal on Mickey's part, and I was saddened but not surprised that it seemed to be too much for Truman to forgive. Mickey needs all the friends she can get."



message 15: by Sherry (last edited Jan 05, 2021 05:10AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sherry  | 3621 comments Carol/Bonadie wrote: "Just finishing this and a couple of comments:

The discussion was excellent. I really enjoyed the insights you all brought to the story. I sort of wished I'd been reading along with you but one doe..."


i just finished and agree with everything carol wrote. i have nothing new to add and appreciate the discussion you all had about the book.
i also thought that lafferty came out of left field- i wasn't expecting that.
i was so disappointed that mickey felt truman might have been the killer. he was one of the few real friends she had- someone she could always turn to, that i hated seeing her throw that friendship away.
i did really like the friendship she developed with mrs. mahon.
overall, i enjoyed the book and am glad i read it. not a 5 star read for me, though- maybe 4. i was excited to read it since it made so many people's top read lists- not just here, but with other people i follow. could have been my mood :)


Carol/Bonadie (bonadie) | 7904 comments Sherry, your comments made me re-read the ones above and reminded me of the plot. I so appreciate these discussions! Thanks for chiming in when you finished.


message 17: by Ann (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ann (annrumsey) | 14413 comments Sherry: I also was sad when Mickey suspected Truman which deeply affected their friendship. It was a big loss of someone who had her back. I know what you mean about how lots of hype or reviews known before reading sometimes lead to a bit of a let down.


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