This Bright River by Patrick Somerville 4/5 This Bright River begins in a bar in Madison, Wisconsin. Two strangers, their identities unknown to us, meet and spend the evening bonding; they then exit into the cold night, where a shocking act of violence occurs. That incident hangs over much of Patrick Somerville’s new novel – it’s a crime-show-style cold opening with implications that weave their way through the rest of the story.
The novel’s central characters and narrators, Ben Hanson and Laurie Sheehan, are former classmates who are reunited when Ben returns to Wisconsin. Home to restore his late uncle’s cabin, Ben finds himself struggling with his newfound sobriety; Laurie, a former doctor, buries herself in veterinary work and tries to shake off a series of past traumas. As their histories emerge via flashbacks, they are drawn to one another – and toward the isolated shelter where Ben seeks answers regarding another bygone tragedy. Stories nest subtly within other stories until, near the end, there’s a revelation about one precise, profound moment in time. Tobias Carroll