Notable Novels: Peek into the opioid crisis in “Long Bright River”


“Long Bright River” by Liz Moore, published earlier this month, tackles the opioid epidemic ravaging our neighborhoods. Photo Courtesy/ Youtube Good Morning America

“Long Bright River” by Liz Moore combines mystery, crime and family drama into a suspenseful plot. Mickey and Kacey are estranged sisters who lead very different lives. Kacey is a drug addict, living and working on the streets, while Mickey is a police officer patrolling the Kensington neighborhood in Philadelphia that Kacey hangs around in. Narrated by Mickey and told from her point of view, the book goes back and forth between the past and present events in the sisters’ lives that lead up to their current situation. 

A serial killer is targeting women in Kensington, and around the same time that these murders are occurring, Kacey disappears. Mickey grows desperate and terrified for her sister and embarks on a rabbit hole of a journey trying to find her. Mickey is not sure who she can trust among her police officer colleagues, and soon she is placed on administrative leave for her non-work-related actions, making her search for her sister more complicated.

The book reads like layers of an onion being pulled back, with plot twists and shocking revelations throughout. Mickey and Kacey’s story is heavy and dark. The writer, Moore, completely avoids what could be a feel-good plot about sisters finding each other. Her storytelling is deeply captivating and offers minimal comic relief. It is evident that Moore researched the setting and the opioid crisis, as much of the text pertains to these two topics. During interviews on her book tour, she shared a sobering statistic that is reflected in her novel: there was an average of 3 drug-related deaths a day in 2018 according to the Philadelphia Department of Health.

Author Liz Moore presents her novel, “Long Bright RIver,” at a Librarian Open Book Event.
Photo Courtesy/ Youtube prhlibrary

This story sheds light on the realities of the opioid epidemic and provides a clear, heartbreaking picture of life in this Philadelphia neighborhood. The streets are regularly occupied by drug dealers, prostitutes and social workers, with a constant battle of trying to get off the dark path and being drawn back in. Moore holds nothing back and uses no sugar coating in her writing to describe the effects of addiction. The characters are well-developed and authentic. In their own ways, Mickey and Kacey are trying to get their lives together while facing various types of obstacles. Moore flawlessly executed the past-present writing style and, although I would have enjoyed reading the story from Kacey’s point of view, Mickey’s voice is raw, heartbreaking and relatable.  

Published in January 2020 and close to 500 pages in length, this book may take about a week to finish, if you’re an avid reader. Its unanswered questions will haunt your mind even when the novel is closed. Fans of suspenseful page-turners and murder mysteries will likely enjoy this book. Moore’s fourth novel, “Long Bright River,” is a Good Morning America Book Club pick and an Amazon Best Book for January 2020. They made no mistake picking this incredible page-turner.