THE LONG AND FARAWAY GONE by Lou Berney
THE LONG AND FARAWAY GONE
The summer of 1986 was a violent one in Oklahoma City. Armed robbers killed six employees at a movie theatre, leaving one young man inexplicably alive. A few months later a 17-year-old girl went missing from the state fair, never to be found—leaving her younger sister Juliana behind, waiting for her to return. Years later Wyatt, the movie theatre survivor, is now a private investigator in Las Vegas. He takes a gig that leads him back to Oklahoma City, where he can’t avoid
reliving the events of that long ago summer. Little sister Juliana has also grown up, but can’t let go of the past. When a witness returns to the area, Juliana is unable to resist chasing down dangerous rabbit holes, still searching for answers to her sister’s disappearance.
This is crime fiction at its absolute best. Berney brings us a novel that is at once deeply insightful and beautifully written, simultaneously paying homage to the
victims of crime and to the survivors left struggling to understand. The narrative weaves between two
viewpoints—Wyatt, the smart-ass private investigator who is never able to settle down, and Juliana, who can’t stop obsessing over her sister’s disappearance and continues to chase ghosts. These characters are bound by the ‘what ifs’ of the past, as well as the ‘whys’. Both Wyatt and Juliana are compelling and empathetic characters, whose responses to the tragic events of the past are different, yet each is still crippled by those events years later. I was especially fond of Wyatt’s smart-ass nature, which keeps the tone from becoming too heavy—it adds some levity that keeps the story in perfect balance.
In addition to the great storytelling and likable characters, Berney finds an excellent rhythm and pacing; the events and characters unfold in a way that moves things right along. The only time I really put this book down was tell everyone in earshot about how good it was.
THE LONG AND FARAWAY GONE is a gripping investigation into the aftermath of violence, the lengths survivors are willing to go for answers, and how repercussions echo far into years to come. This is Berney’s third novel, and it puts him squarely in the ranks of powerhouses such as Lippman and Lehane. It will also hands down make my list of favorite books in 2015.
Erica Ruth Neubauer