So then there’s THE LONG AND FARAWAY GONE, by Lou Berney. If the title rings in your head like the story might be threatening to put a lump in your throat, then good, you’re paying attention.
But this is no sappy, manipulative piece of work. It’s life on pages.
There’s a set of mysteries at its core, crimes from the past that haven’t stopped spreading ripples across the lives of the survivors. There is drama. There is comedy. There are puzzles and misdirections. There are clues that you don’t know are clues until it’s almost too late. There are characters, but I’ll only call them that because I have to, because this is a work of fiction. But what Lou Berney has actually done is rendered fully drawn people who are completely compelling, not simply all-good or all-terrible, just like the whole world of people who don’t live out their lives only on paper. Wyatt, Julianna, Genevieve, the employees of The Pheasant Run movie theater, Candace, Lyle, and a troupe of others will feel very familiar, because they’re very real. You will believe them and they will make your heart ache.
But my two favorite achievements that Lou Berney has managed with THE LONG AND FARAWAY GONE stand alone. The first is how he brought back 1986 in the “then” parts of the book in such an organic way that it doesn’t feel like a joke. This is no straining caricature of back-in-the-day. It’s just 1986, the way it was, and the “now” parts of the book are the inevitable result of how it was “then”. You know, just the way real life works.
The best for last is something that I’ve never seen done better. THE LONG AND FARAWAY GONE maps out the ways our lives cross other lives, how they brush against each other’s margins in ways we’ll never know. I hate the word “poignant”. It looks awkward typed out and it almost always feels like a punt to me, but the painfully lovely intersections that the reader sees that the characters can’t are just gorgeous. It killed me.
It’s a wonderful book. Read a synopsis here and check to see if Lou Berney will be signing THE LONG AND FARAWAY GONE anywhere near you. This is one book you’ll want to have on your “best reads” shelf.