Bitter Sun is the second novel from Beth Lewis, I loved her previous novel, The Wolf Road, so I had high hopes for this one. It met my hopes, it exceeded my hopes!
It all started when we found the body.
Then nothing was ever the same.
The Dry meets Stand by Me and True Detective in this stunningly written tale of the darkness at the heart of a small Midwestern town and the four kids who uncover it.
In the heat-wave summer of 1971, four kids find a body by a lake and set out to solve a murder. But they dig too deep and ask too many questions.
Larson is a town reeling in the wake of the Vietnam draft, where the unrelenting heat ruins the harvest and the people teeter on the edge of ruin.
As tension and paranoia run rife, rumours become fact, violence becomes reflex. The unrest allows the dark elements of the close-knit farming community to rise and take control.
And John, Jenny, Gloria and Rudy are about to discover that sometimes secrets are best left uncovered….
Small town mysteries are hugely appealing to me, and Larson is the perfect example of why. In this close-knit community, tensions are running high, the atmosphere is stifling, the unrest, this community could implode at any minute. And the heatwave added to the atmosphere, made it unbearable, put everyone on edge, and sooner or later somethings got to give….
More than the mystery, this novel was a coming-of-age for our main quartet. An exploration of familial relationships, the highs and the lows. Bitter Sun breathes life into the phrase ‘friends are the family you get to choose for yourself’. This novel is narrated by John, it was him and his sister, Jenny, who I was most invested in; the complexities they faced in their young lives, the direction their lives took – wow, Lewis can pen a story!
This novel has darkness at its centre, and as the story progresses, this darkness spills out. John, Jenny, Gloria and Rudy try to contain it, but they’re just children, and sometimes things just have to run their course. There are two things I said about this author’s previous novel, The Wolf Road, and I think both apply here! One: a dark tale that is beautifully written. Two: Have you ever wanted to jump into a fictional world and rescue a character, to take away their pain, and offer them the love and care they so clearly need?
Ragland did an amazing job narrating this novel, he put me in the heart of 1971 Larson, and I couldn’t leave until the book ended. Fans of literary [crime] fiction, and coming-of-age tales, you need this novel in your life. The emotion, the heartbreak, the mystery, the lies, the secrets, the heat, the devastation, the tension, the suspense – this novel has it all. There’s so much in this novel, so many relationships and events I could elaborate on, so much I want to say, but I’ll end this review here, because you need to discover this story for yourself, visit Larson and hear it all first-hand!