Having only heard of Ritter because of ‘Jessica Jones’, I was intrigued to pick up her book. I am so glad I took my gut instinct and went with it. Bonfire was wonderfully written with a captivating plot that kept me reading way past my bedtime.
Abby Williams thought she left Barrens, Indiana behind her. She thought she left her ‘friends’ merciless teasing, the lure of her high school crushes, the mysterious ‘Game’, and the disappearance of her ex-best friend, Kaycee, behind. But the past is back. Now that she works as an environmental lawyer in Chicago, a case of contamination has brought her back to Barrens, investigating the company that has saved the town. However, Abby’s back for two reasons: not just to solve the question of the company’s pollution, but to uncover some answers about Kaycee’s disappearance and the connection between the two.
One of the things that impressed me the most was how poignant Ritter’s turns of phrases are. There are so many word plays and quotes that stand out. I was furiously highlighting whole passages that were not only so well written, but also insightful. There is a skill in misdirecting, unreliable narration, and the danger of routine that Ritter explores with cleverness. They combine to produce a book that will stay with you even after you turn the last page.
The story reminded me a lot of ‘Erin Brokovich’ meets The Girl on the Train. It had the same environmental scale that I was familiar with from the film, but also a narrator that is deeply touched by the ‘mystery’ in the story. It had plenty of suspense that had a steady build up not only as more dirt was uncovered, but also as Abby became more and more involved. You won’t be missing action in this book, and the fast paced events keep the momentum – and captivating suspense – constant.
Abby is a fascinating character. She makes mistakes, drinks too much, and is stubborn. Abby is driven by the fierce desire to come to terms with the past and her old home. In that way, her desire to put her ghosts to rest is very relatable. While the scale may be different, I think in many ways we all are haunted by the decisions of our youth, and the people who impacted it, both good and bad.
There are those who wronged us, bullied us, and hurt us – who just want to apologize and put their cruelty behind them. There are also those who we misunderstood – the ones who never managed to get onto our radar, but where important on the fringes. And there are those who had a hold on us – a hold that is difficult to escape even now, no matter how much more successful we are, or how far we’ve come. We are asked to question ourselves – is there the possibility for good and our mistakes to coexist? For us to change?
I could relate to Abby, not only because of her passion to uncover the truth, but also in her ability to be deeply human – flawed, self-destructive at times, but also motivated by the greater good. The past is full of ghosts which haunt us, reviving our traumatic memories and resurfacing it when we least expect it. They linger, echo over the water, until they resurface – ugly in the light of day – with vindication. Abby is on a journey. A journey to uncover the past, confront her home, and uncover the corruption that runs deeper and more sinister than she could possibly suspect.
Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for an honest review from Netgalley.
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