Two sisters travel the same streets, though their lives couldn’t be more different.
Then one of them goes missing.
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.
Long Bright River is by no means an easy read, but it is totally worth it. Set within the opioid epidemic, the narrative is layered beautifully with twists and reveals that add complexity to an already complicated situation.
This was the secret I learned that day: None of them want to be saved. They all want to sink backward toward the earth again, to be swallowed by the ground, to keep sleeping. There is hatred on their faces when they are roused from the dead. It's a look I've seen dozens of times, now, on the job: standing over the shoulder of some poor EMT whose job it is to reel them back in from the other side. It was the look on Kacey's face that day as her eyes opened, as she cursed, as she wept. It was directed at me.
Mickey straddles so many worlds. Being a police officer in this neighbourhood is difficult enough without factoring in being both a female officer and a single mother. Then, add in a missing sister supporting her addiction with sex work, and she clearly has a lot on her mind and going on in her life. But now, a serial killer is preying on sex workers, and Mickey’s sister is still missing. All of this is revealed within the first few chapters, and it only becomes more complicated as the narrative continues. At first, I was prepared for the predictability of what would come. After all, there are plenty of police procedurals tackling addiction and serial killers who prey on at-risk communities. But, as more of Mickey’s past is divulged, it quickly becomes apparent that this will not be predictable or stereotypical.
The two of us pulled farther and farther away from one another. Without her, my loneliness became outrageous, a low hum, an extra limb, a tin can that dragged behind me wherever I went.
There is no black and white in Long Bright River; what appears simple at first only evolves into shades of grey as you delve deeper. It was the perfect way to tell a story about complex issues often misjudged by how they appear in politics and society. The tone is bleak, especially as Mickey and Kacey’s traumatic childhood is explored, adding context to the present. Despite the subject matter, the writing is beautiful and expressive, painting a picture of these experiences.
In a moment of clarity, once, Kacey told me that time spent in addiction feels looped. Each morning brings with it the possibility of change, each evening the shame of failure.
Long Bright River tackles complex, misunderstood, and misrepresented issues with unapologetic candour. I found it to be enlightening, heartbreaking, and captivating.