I picked up The Bright Forever, by Lee Martin, at a book sale and kept it on the shelf for a few years. Then, at another book sale, I accidentally purchased a second copy. It, too, collected dust. Finally, a few weeks ago as I was browsing my shelves, looking for something new to read, I finally picked it up and looked at the copy on the back. I’ll be honest– I do, to a degree, judge books by their covers, and The Bright Forever’s cover design never resonated with me. But, being an award junkie, I was pulled in by the fact that The Bright Forever was a Pulitzer Prize Finalist for Fiction. Surely it had to be good if the Pulitzer committee wanted to give it accolades, right?
The Bright Forever, which takes place in the 1970s in a small mid-western town, explores the abduction of a nine-year old girl named Katie through the use of four narrators– her tutor, Mr. Dees, Raymond, Mr. Dees’ neighbor, Raymond’s wife, Claire, and Katie’s brother, Gilley. By allowing the reader to listen to these recollections of the time before and after Katie’s disappearance, the reader has the nifty opportunity to form his or her own conclusions about what has transpired. Real life abductions, murders, and other similar crimes are usually not clear cut and easy to solve, but rather complicated and messy affairs, and The Bright Forever does remarkably well in muddying its waters and creating narrators that the reader feels compassion and distrust for at the same time.
Lee Martin has written a very easy to read book that I found compelling and gut wrenching at the same time. It would be a great book to discuss among friends or in a book group, so why not gift it to a friend for Christmas and spend an afternoon, over warm mugs of coffee, and figure out what you think of this book?