This Bright River

This Bright River is a thought-provoking read combining the two qualities of having a Wisconsin connection and being a “book club” type book.

The story begins with a prologue of a man hitting another man on the head with the intent to kill him. The significance of this is gradually revealed piece by piece as the story spans the years from the 1990s to 2011.

Ben Hanson is in his early thirties and is returning to his Wisconsin hometown of St. Helen’s (probably in Waukesha County) after being in prison in Oregon for arson connected to his relationship with Jeremy. Ben blamed Jeremy for stealing his ideas for a computer game and for stealing his girlfriend Allie. Ben blew through his trust fund and now is trying to find his footing in life. Ben’s father has asked him to sell his brother (Ben’s uncle) Denny’s house and to spread Denny’s ashes in the Bright River in the Upper Peninsula where they had a cabin. Denny’s son Wayne died years ago at the cabin when he was a senior at UW-Madison. Ben is good at puzzles and in the same way as a puzzle, the author reveals more pieces about Ben, Ben’s sister Haley, and Wayne’s death as the story unfolds.

Lauren Sheehan, a classmate of Ben’s in high school, is also back in town working for a veterinarian after studying to be a doctor. Lauren has her own psychological demons—a horrifying experience in Africa as an aid worker and a bad marriage. Ben and Lauren start up a relationship. There is a suspenseful situation toward the end of the book that provides some resolution so that they can go forward with their lives.

Although this is a dark story, Ben and Lauren manage to strike a positive note at the end. This would be a good book club book and a good choice for anyone who likes a literary book especially those who like a Wisconsin connection.




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