Title: The Long and Faraway Gone
Author: Lou Berney
Published: 2015, William Morrow, Trade Paperback
Length: 456 pages
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Crime
Source: Quarterly Book Box that I purchased. #Lit06
Stars: 4.5 Stars
Edgar Award-nominee Lou Berney’s The Long and Faraway Gone is a smart, fiercely compassionate crime story that explores the mysteries of memory and the impact of violence on survivors—and the lengths they will go to find the painful truth of the events that scarred their lives.
In the summer of 1986, two tragedies rocked Oklahoma City. Six movie-theater employees were killed in an armed robbery, while one inexplicably survived. Then, a teenage girl vanished from the annual State Fair. Neither crime was ever solved.
Twenty-five years later, the reverberations of those unsolved cases quietly echo through survivors’ lives. A private investigator in Vegas, Wyatt’s latest inquiry takes him back to a past he’s tried to escape—and drags him deeper into the harrowing mystery of the movie house robbery that left six of his friends dead.
Like Wyatt, Julianna struggles with the past—with the day her beautiful older sister Genevieve disappeared. When Julianna discovers that one of the original suspects has resurfaced, she’ll stop at nothing to find answers.
As Wyatt’s case becomes more complicated and dangerous, and Julianna seeks answers from a ghost, their obsessive quests not only stir memories of youth and first love, but also begin to illuminate dark secrets of the past. Even if they find the truth, will it help them understand what happened and why they were left behind that long and faraway gone summer? Will it set them free–or ultimately destroy them?
This is the most melancholy story I’ve read lately. The sadness just permeates this book. I put off this review in order let that sadness dissipate, but it really took a long time. The sadness of this book just settled hard into my bones. I think it does because I was a teen and I remember what it was like to be a working class kid during those years. It’s easy to have nostalgia for the flashy stuff (see Ready Player One for nostalgia for the glossy, fun ’80’s.) But instead this book cracks open and examines what it is like to survive the ’80’s and survive violent crimes that seemed to be emblematic of that decade. And ultimately the book really asks the question How do survivors of devastating violence survive the guilt of living? And does knowing why the crime happened really help the survivors survive?
What I liked: I think what I like most about this story is that it’s not a story of triumph over a tragedy. Wyatt and Julianna have suffered as a result of the crime and this story is about how they suffer and their desire to know why this all happened to them. and sadly, the answers they get are not necessarily the answers they want or need to help them make sense of the crimes they endured. By the end of the tale we know the truth and why of what happened in August of 1986, but it isn’t a neat and tidy ending like in a TV movie.
Each and every decision they have made in their lives has been driven by that crime. And while they both chose professions that help people , Wyatt is a private detective and Julianna is a nurse, their work and personal lives area mess. It feels right that their lives are such a mess even years after those violent crimes. I also like that Berney doesn’t try to force a relationship between Wyatt and Julianna. The do meet briefly, but neither really knows who the other is. In fact many of the characters in this story do have connections to one or the other crime, but this detail doesn’t seem to intrude and knock me out of the tale.
What I didn’t so much: I’m not as fond of the Julianna. She is much more reckless and unthinking in her pursuit of why her sister disappeared all those years ago. She puts herself in situations that make me want to crawl into the book and smack some sense into her. And I’m also not as fond of Wyatt’s subplot. It serves more as a distraction from his real purpose in the story which is to find out why he survived the mass shooting.
Would I recommend: Yes. Read it when you are in the need of a sad story. If you are looking for something to cheer you up and give you faith in humanity, well, avoid this book. That said, this book is one of the best I’ve read so far this year.
Have you read this book or any others by this author? If so, can you recommend any other of his books? Or any other books that seem to be similar to this one? Let me know in the comments below, and happy reading, y’all.