A sign of a good book is that you find yourself thinking about parts of it long after you’re done reading it. Lou Berney’s The Long and Faraway Gone is just such a book and this is the second novel I’ve read in the last month that deals with the vagaries of fate (the first being Before the Fall). The writing is beautiful, and the story is haunting, and even though I finished it back in March, I’ll still chewing on it, figuratively speaking.
In 1986, two tragic events happen in Oklahoma City. The first involves the staff of a local movie theater—all who are killed in an armed robbery after hours, except one teenage employee, Wyatt. On a smaller scale, a young woman disappears at a county fair, leaving her younger sister, Julianna, waiting and wondering what happened. The two cases seem unrelated except by the damage they do to the ones left behind.
Flash forward to the present, and Wyatt is a private investigator, living in Las Vegas. Against his better judgement, he does a favor for a friend and takes a case in his old home town. As Wyatt fears, returning home awakens memories that he doesn’t want to revisit as well as questions he doesn’t want to think about. Why him? Why didn’t they kill him?
Juliana has never left Oklahoma City and in truth, has never left the tragedy of her sister’s disappearance behind. She still regularly connects with the detective who initially handled the case, hoping to get closer to solving the mystery of what happened to her sister. The recent release of a former “person of interest” from prison has her convinced that if she could only talk with him, she might get closer to learning what happened to her sister.
The novel follows both characters as they do battle with the past, a past that keeps them from fully living in the present. The paths they take and the way they intersect is one of the complex joys of this novel, and Berney strikes a masterful balance in revealing some truths but leaving others unknown. I’ve now added Lou Berney’s other books to my to-read list.