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The Bright Forever

by Lee Martin

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
7052327,380 (3.53)8
On an evening like any other, nine-year-old Katie Mackey, daughter of the most affluent family in a small town on the plains of Indiana, sets out on her bicycle to return some library books. This simple act is at the heart of The Bright Forever, a suspenseful, deeply affecting novel about the choices people make that change their lives forever. Keeping fact, speculation, and contradiction playing off one another as the details unfold, author Lee Martin creates a fast-paced story that is as gripping as it is richly human. His beautiful, clear-eyed prose builds to an extremely nuanced portrayal of the complicated give and take among people struggling to maintain their humanity in the shadow of a loss. Reminiscent of books such as The Little Friend and The Lovely Bones, but most memorable for its own perceptions and power, The Bright Forever is a compelling and emotional tale about the human need to know even the hardest truth. The disappearance of nine-year-old Katie Mackey, the daughter of the most affluent family in a small Indiana town, while riding her bicycle to town to return some library books, has profound repercussions for her entire family, the perpetrator, and the entire community.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
A confessional type of whodunit... narrated by several people from small town Indiana about the disappearance of 9-year-old Katie Mackey one lovely summer evening when she rides off on her bike to return her library books. The book takes place in the early 70s -- idyllic years of childhood freedom and the taken-for-granted safety of a town where everyone knows you -- references abound to music, clothing styles, cars, and current events allowing the reader to be grounded in the time period. Despite the appearance of normalcy and status quo, there are many undercurrents in town about changing social mores, class, and status. Multiple people are culpable in Katie's abduction: as the author states: "where does responsibility start and end?" Not only are present situations to blames, but past sins linger too. Despite the difficult-to-read subject matter, the story is beautifully, almost poetically written with reflection and honesty and the reader feels privileged to be in the know. ( )
  CarrieWuj | Oct 24, 2020 |
3 stars ( )
  JennysBookBag.com | Sep 28, 2016 |
On a beautiful July evening, nine-year-old Katie Mackey disappears on her way to the library. And our hearts break.

I just don't know where to start. It's hard not to compare this to Alice Sebold's [b:The Lovely Bones|536|The Lovely Bones|Alice Sebold|http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41NcSBtUe1L._SL75_.jpg|1145090], but there's a huge difference. As I remember it, The Lovely Bones dealt with the family's grieving process through the years following Susie's death. The Bright Forever follows the immediate aftermath of Katie's disappearance. All the rage, despair, hope, shame, suspicions, and "what if"s are examined in this book.

And then it goes a step farther. At the very end is something of a call to action. The last narrator (there are several) says,

     "And what about the ones that evening who saw us come and go...and never for an instant thought there might be something wrong?
     The problem is this: how many of us were there who could have done something to stop what was going to happen? Where does responsibility start and end?"

"We thought we were all free: free from work, from chores, from one another."

     "'He always looked like he was carrying the world on his back. I'd see him around town, and my heart would break.'
     'Did you ever tell him that?' I asked her. 'Tell him that you saw him, that you felt something about what it was to have his kind of life?'
     'I can't recall ever saying a word.'
     'He might have liked to have heard it.'"

What could be prevented if we just noticed each other? Not even just crimes. Maybe the neglected little boy wouldn't grow up to be the twisted man if someone had noticed his pain when he was younger. Just noticing. How hard is it, really? And yet we seldom do it.

I can't say that the characters were developed all that well, but I believe this was on purpose. They became archetypes. If they had each had too much of their own personality, they would have only been a character in a book. As it is, it's all too easy to see your neighbor, your co-worker, your child, or even yourself. And that ultimately makes the story pack a harder punch.

I have to say that there was one little thing that drove me crazy. I swear they talk about Katie's gorgeous brown hair. My husband and I agree that the lock of hair on my cover is blond. I think the idea for the cover was great, but I wish they had gotten that detail right.

I'm tempted to say that parents of young children might want to steer clear of this novel. It's every parent's worst nightmare. But in a way, it teaches you to appreciate every moment you have with your family. So I'll leave it up to each reader reading this review. You know what you can handle. This isn't an easy book to read by any means, but it definitely left me thinking. ( )
  JG_IntrovertedReader | Apr 3, 2013 |
Early in Lee Martin’s The Bright Forever, one of the narrators says “I warn you: this is a story as hard to hear as it is for me to tell.” You may dismiss that when you first sit down to read the book, but it's true. This is a story that will stay with me for a long time, and it was a hard one for me to read even while it sucked me in and didn’t let me go. The Bright Forever is a story of choices and turning points -- so of course it’s a story of guilt too. Told through the eyes of different characters as they remember the events that led up to and followed the disappearance of nine-year-old Katie Mackey, all of the narrators feel in some way responsible for the story’s outcome.

Lee Martin’s writing is spare but beautiful -- each word seems chosen carefully to build his characters while crafting a book that is as tragic a tale as I’ve read in a while. As always when I’m reading something by Martin, what strikes me is his ability to make his characters heartbreakingly real in what seems to be an effortless manner. Even the most periphery people in the story are multidimensional – characters you’re liable to recognize from your own hometown with all of their flaws, secrets, and regrets wrapped into seemingly simple lives.

One of the most beautiful and poignant quotes in The Bright Forever comes from Clare – a woman others in the story view as quite ordinary, but whose observations constantly grabbed me and left me scrambling for a pen so I could come back to them when the story was done. In dealing with life after a loss, Clare says, “But always there’s that glimmer of light – the way of living you once knew – sort of faded and smoky like the crescent moon on a winter’s night when the air is full of ice and clouds, but still there, hanging just over your head. You think it’s not far. You think at any moment you can reach out and grab it.” That sense of possibilities just out of reach is one that permeates this novel and builds until you get to the end and join the characters in the book in thinking “if only.”

( )
  kalky | Apr 3, 2013 |
In the tradition of the Lovely Bones, the Bright Forever is a compelling and gruesome read. It was a story I could hardly put down, yet still flinched as I read each page. ( )
  dgmlrhodes | Feb 9, 2013 |
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Epigraph
On the banks beyond the river /We shall meet , no more to sever; / In the bright, the bright forever, / In the summer land of song.

Fanny J. Cosby, "The Bright Forever "
Dedication
To Deb / Thank you for asking the right questions
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I'm not saying I didn't do it.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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On an evening like any other, nine-year-old Katie Mackey, daughter of the most affluent family in a small town on the plains of Indiana, sets out on her bicycle to return some library books. This simple act is at the heart of The Bright Forever, a suspenseful, deeply affecting novel about the choices people make that change their lives forever. Keeping fact, speculation, and contradiction playing off one another as the details unfold, author Lee Martin creates a fast-paced story that is as gripping as it is richly human. His beautiful, clear-eyed prose builds to an extremely nuanced portrayal of the complicated give and take among people struggling to maintain their humanity in the shadow of a loss. Reminiscent of books such as The Little Friend and The Lovely Bones, but most memorable for its own perceptions and power, The Bright Forever is a compelling and emotional tale about the human need to know even the hardest truth. The disappearance of nine-year-old Katie Mackey, the daughter of the most affluent family in a small Indiana town, while riding her bicycle to town to return some library books, has profound repercussions for her entire family, the perpetrator, and the entire community.

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