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  • Writer's pictureMandy McHugh

Review: The Bright Lands, John Fram

This was high up on my TBR, and I was thrilled to receive an eARC from Harlequin and NetGalley in exchange for review consideration.

Let me start by saying: The Bright Lands is an exceptional read. Raised in a football town, in a football family, I hadn't found a sports-centric thriller that resonated on so many levels--until The Bright Lands.

Joel Whitley returns to his conservative hometown when his younger brother reaches out for help. Plagued by memories of his own experiences in Bentley, Joel plans on getting Dylan out before something terrible happens. Unfortunately, things don't happen that way, and Joel is thrust into a decades-old mystery with supernatural implications.

I mean--I don't know where to begin. From the characters to the pacing, Fram's writing is engaging and consuming. Each narrative voice is rich and well-developed. Much like Derry or The Stanley Hotel, the town of Bentley becomes a character in and of itself, sliding slowly away to reveal a grotesque underbelly of grudges, racism, and hatred of anyone who doesn't fit into the "football-way-of-life" mold.

This book encompasses so many relevant topics: complex family dynamics. Drugs. Sex. Religion. Sexuality. The pressures kids face on a daily basis with no outlet.

And on top of that is a horrific element of the beast. Both symbolic and real, Fram highlights how the dark motivations people keep hidden can manifest in truly terrifying ways with resounding consequences.

The Bright Lands should be on your must-read list of 2020. Astounding.


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