Bonfire by Krysten Ritter
Bonfire is the first novel by actress and producer Krysten Ritter. (OK, I had no idea who she is—if I have seen her shows, I didn’t know.)
Ritter is a good story teller, and here she takes advantage of the medium, working in a lot of monologue, memory, and flash backs that would be difficult to do on the screen.
The story itself is pretty tense and complicated. A team of investigators comes to a small Indiana town, determined to dig up environmental crimes perpetrated by the multinational company that pretty much owns the town. The protagonist, Abby, is also from the town (symbolically named ‘Barrens’), and soon sinks into the confused muck of her childhood.
I gather than Ritter is from such a small town, and the town, its people, and their history are extremely believable. At least, on the surface. Everybody knows everybody else, life is dumb but dull. But there is obviously something hidden going on in Barrens. But is it illegal chemical dumping? Corporate corruption? Or something else?
Abby is drawn to investigate the disappearance of a girl in her high school. This old mystery only seems more sinister the more people tell her to forget about it. Is it connected with the present day investigation? Is there really even a mystery, or is it just an old tragedy?
The story is well written, but I can’t say that I really enjoyed it very much.
The town is pretty grim and far too close to home to be anything like fun to read about. Abby is pretty freaked out from the start (honestly, she should never have come back), so a lot of the story is a jumble of misapprehension and poor judgement on her part. There is a lot of pain and the ultimate mysteries are grim and ugly.
At the end, I wondered, what is the actual point here? Abby is compelled to uncover the truth from her past, despite the pain and danger she endures. Is knowing the truth worth it? I dunno.
- Krysten Ritter, Bonfire, New York, Crown Archetype, 2017.
Sunday Book Reviews