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Brighton: Book Review

By Sienna Wynn

Brighton, by Michael Harvey.

What is it about home that makes us wriggle and reel like a worm on a hook when we are pulled back in? Michael Harvey's novel, Brighton, set in his hometown, is a family drama with everything you'd expect from a book about Boston: crime, loyalty, and blood. What you don't expect before opening the book is the depth of racial tensions and injustices so often left out or glossed over in a story like this. Harvey cuts to the core of these tensions by sending his main character, Kevin Pearce, on a moral journey that confronts these tragedies in Boston as well as his place among them.

Harvey attacks his hometown, unafraid and unyielding to tell a story in which a young boy has one option: get out. Through baseball, good grades, and guidance by his beloved grandmother, he finds his cruel childhood cut short at fifteen when his grandmother is murdered in a botched robbery. The crime is pegged on Curtis Jordan, who is seen running from her apartment back to Fidelis, the African-American slum. Like a true Bostonian, Kevin follows his rage down a path of revenge and gets wrapped up in a crime that could ruin his chances of ever escaping, of ever being anything. Bobby Scales, his sworn brother, steps in and takes care of things. For twenty-five years no one in Brighton sees Kevin. When he returns he is a Pulitzer Prize winner and an investigative reporter. Lisa, his girlfriend, has her own successes working for the D.A.

And as Harvey paints a very real description of Boston he includes what is so often left out: race. Lisa is black and the article Kevin wins his Pulitzer for is about injustice's against a black family. So begins the confrontation of his past when his girlfriend digs up a file on the unsolved murder of Curtis Jordan, connecting it to a string of murders around town.

Using third person to his best advantage, Harvey explores the minds and histories that link all of these people to the same streets they're unable to leave. What at its heart is a novel about the hold the past has on us, it is also a story that does not veer away from the complications of love we have for family and home -- or lack thereof. The reason Kevin disappears is clear, the reason he comes back even clearer still, and yet why these heartbreaking stories continuously come out of Boston is still a question rolling through our society. Brighton is an attempt to understand what is never easy, nature and nurture.

Sienna Wynn is a graduating senior of Columbia College Chicago's creative writing department with a focus in fiction. Originally from Southern California, she moved to Chicago to pursue her writing career outside of her native Los Angeles environment. She writes short stories and is working on her first novel. Among her favorite books are East of Eden by John Steinbeck, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg.

Article © Sienna Wynn. All rights reserved.
Published on 2017-05-01
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