Review: Long Bright River by Liz Moore

by Heather Caliendo
long bright river review - book club chat

Long Bright River by Liz Moore is an impactful story about the opioid epidemic and the complicated dynamic between sisters. This is quite the unique story.

It’s rare for literary fiction to be tied with a crime thriller but that’s exactly what Long Bright River entails. The story is lengthy at 496 pages, however, many of the chapters are short. So despite the high page count, the story does fly by—although I did read it over a course of a couple days. Some stories warrant the one sitting read while others, you want to spread it out and savor it in a way.

The synopsis:

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.

A smart thriller

I personally haven’t read a thriller like this one. Gone is the alcoholic unreliable narrator and in its place is Mickey—a quiet cop who just wants to provide for her beloved son. As she patrols the streets, she’ll encounter her sister Kacey who is an addict. While she’s tried to save her in the past, Mickey feels almost hopeless that she’ll never change. But all that shifts when Kacey goes missing and Mickey makes it her mission to find her sister.

The story is split between the mystery and also reveals of Mickey and Kacey’s past. Sometimes when stories go back to childhoods, I don’t feel it helps move the story forward. But it does in this case; it definitely helps to know their past. The author Liz Moore really provides an interesting contrast to why Kacey went down the same path as their parents but Mickey didn’t. There are plenty of reveals throughout the story.

I would also say that yes, this is a crime thriller—it’s written very much in a literary fiction style. There’s much attention to character development and for every chapter that has an exciting angle—there’s a slow-burn one to meet it. I personally really liked that style and thought it fit the overall story perfectly.

I just want to point out that, for some reason, the author didn’t use quotations in this novel but dashes. I’m not sure why she made that decision and it’s a little jarring at first but you’ll get used to it.

Real characters

Sometimes I read a story, especially thrillers, I shake my head at the descriptions of characters. It can feel so extreme and outlandish that it’s hard to recognize any relatable traits. Now, I definitely did not relate to any of the characters in Long Bright River but they all felt so real—especially Mickey. She’s not perfect but you definitely empathize with her situation.

This one is hard to read at times—especially about the impacts of addiction. The opioid crisis is in the news daily and it seems that no community is spared. The epidemic has hit families across the country regardless of income level.

Final review thoughts: a slow-burn read about the impacts of addiction on a family in Philadelphia.

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