In a Philadelphia neighborhood rocked by the opioid crisis, two once-inseparable sisters find themselves at odds. One, Kacey, lives on the streets in the vise of addiction. The other, Mickey, walks those same blocks on her police beat. They don’t speak anymore, but Mickey never stops worrying about her sibling.
Then Kacey disappears, suddenly, at the same time that a mysterious string of murders begins in Mickey’s district, and Mickey becomes dangerously obsessed with finding the culprit–and her sister–before it’s too late.
Alternating its present-day mystery with the story of the sisters’ childhood and adolescence, Long Bright River is at once heart-pounding and heart-wrenching: a gripping suspense novel that is also a moving story of sisters, addiction, and the formidable ties that persist between place, family, and fate.
Book Club Questions for Long Bright River
- The story starts off with Mickey and her partner Eddie Lafferty finding a female body. Mickey immediately is worried that the body is her sister Kacey but it’s not. Let’s discuss this opening and how it set the stage for what was to come.
- Why do you think the author decided not to use quotation marks for dialog in this story?
- The story goes from the present back to the past of Mickey and Kacey’s childhood and beyond. Why was it important for us to learn more about their past?
- We learn that both parents are addicts and their mother died of an overdose. The story seems to imply that addiction is somewhat heredity—what are your thoughts on that?
- Let’s talk about their dynamic—Mickey is a cop patrolling the same streets that Kacey is getting high on and also soliciting for work. How can two sisters go in such polar opposite directions in life?
- What did you think about Mickey’s relationship with Truman? Do you think they both did have affection for each other? After the events in the novel, do you think they will ever talk again?
- In Mickey’s teenage years, she appears to try to find parental figures in other people—and Simon Cleare comes along and gives her lots of inappropriate attention. Let’s talk about how Simon manipulated and targeted Mickey.
- It’s interesting from the start that Kacey saw Simon for who he truly was—let’s talk about this.
- When Kacey becomes pregnant, she reveals that the father is Simon who took advantage of her. But yet, Mickey chooses not to believe it for the longest time until it becomes apparent that Kacey is telling the truth. Why do you think it took Mickey so long to see the real Simon?
- And it turns out that Thomas is actually the son of Kacey and Simon. Let’s talk about why Mickey became his parent. When do you think he’ll learn the truth about his biological mom?
- Mickey dreams of becoming a teacher and wants to go to college. But Gee discourages it—pretty much saying people like them don’t go to college. And Simon really pushes the idea she should go into law enforcement. Let’s discuss why Mickey became a cop. Was part of the reason so she could keep an eye on Kacey?
- Let’s discuss Gee’s relationship with Mickey and Kacey—why was she so hard on them? How did the tragedy of losing her own daughter impact her relationships with her grandchildren?
- Throughout the story is the mysteries of what happened to Kacey and also who is committing the murders. First let’s talk about Kacey. Were you surprised that Kacey was alive, along with their dad? Now that Kacey has given birth, again, do you think she can get sober? What do you think Kacey and Mickey’s relationship will be like going forward?
- We find out that Mickey’s partner Lafferty is behind the murders—and many higher ups seemed to have protected him. Let’s talk about the bigger issue that is portrayed of police corruption. What did you think about the fact that the murderer was Lafferty?
- Let’s talk about why Mickey quit the police force. What do you think is next for her?
What to Read Next
Hope you enjoyed book club questions for Long Bright River! Here are some more thought-provoking reads along with links to book club questions.
Miracle Creek by Angie Kim
Miracle Creek by Angie Kim contains similar elements to Long Bright River—a mystery and written in literary fiction style.
How far will you go to protect your family? Will you keep their secrets? Ignore their lies?
In a small town in Virginia, a group of people know each other because they’re part of a special treatment center, a hyperbaric chamber that may cure a range of conditions from infertility to autism. But then the chamber explodes, two people die, and it’s clear the explosion wasn’t an accident.
A powerful showdown unfolds as the story moves across characters who are all maybe keeping secrets, hiding betrayals. Chapter by chapter, we shift alliances and gather evidence: Was it the careless mother of a patient? Was it the owners, hoping to cash in on a big insurance payment and send their daughter to college? Could it have been a protester, trying to prove the treatment isn’t safe?
Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane
Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane also features cops—except it takes place in New York. This one is full of complicated family dynamics and a tragedy that impacts two families for decades.
Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope, rookie cops in the NYPD, live next door to each other outside the city. What happens behind closed doors in both houses—the loneliness of Francis’s wife, Lena, and the instability of Brian’s wife, Anne, sets the stage for the explosive events to come.
Ask Again, Yes is a deeply affecting exploration of the lifelong friendship and love that blossoms between Kate Gleeson and Peter Stanhope, born six months apart. One shocking night their loyalties are divided, and their bond will be tested again and again over the next 40 years. Luminous, heartbreaking, and redemptive, Ask Again, Yes reveals the way childhood memories change when viewed from the distance of adulthood—villains lose their menace and those who appeared innocent seem less so. Kate and Peter’s love story, while haunted by echoes from the past, is marked by tenderness, generosity, and grace.
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