The Bright Forever: A Novel by Lee Martin
Published May 3, 2005 by Shaye Areheart books
Difficulty: just your average fiction novel
Time to Completion: a day (started it in the morning on my way to Solstice in Times Square, while I was waiting, the ride home, and at lunch)
Stars: many stars. Stars may be too happy for this book.
One summer evening, Katie Mackey takes off for the library to return her almost-overdue books. She doesn’t come home. This is the story of the after, during, and before of her disappearance. On one level, it’s a crime novel- solve the mystery, find out who “did it.” On a completely separate, spiritual level, Martin asks us to reconsider the difference between who did it, and who is responsible. The question is uncomfortable, the answer is unbearable.
The story is told through multiple points of view, mostly after the fact, but sometimes not. Time isn’t important, just the fact that things happen. I mean, you’re given the date and whatever, but as people tell their stories, time slowly unravels, to where the only thing that matters is that something happened and it made waves or ripples or just barely disturbed the surface of this little town in Indiana during the first week of July sometime in the 1960s. By going through multiple points of view, it becomes abundantly obvious that there is no such thing as “the truth.” There simply isn’t. There can’t be. No one person has the power to say that “this is true and this isn’t.” There are things that happened and things that didn’t; events happen or they don’t. But I think this book shows that the “truth” we want to attach to events is too complicated for such a little word. There’s so much more than meets the eye or the ear or the hand and reconciling ourselves to this mystifying aspect of life is borderline impossible.
This is a really gorgeous, uncomfortable book. The center of the plot is every parent’s worst nightmare, in multiple respects, and I applaud Lee Martin for writing this book- there is more than one reviewer on Amazon who didn’t like the book because of the subject. By the time I reached the end I was more than aware of how strange I felt, but it forced me to stop and feel, and that doesn’t happen everyday.