By Katie Arnold-Ratliff
Tin House Books, $14.00, 280 pages

Francis Mason is a troubled man and one who feels trapped in a marriage and a life he does not want. Financially struggling with a wife he cares little for and a baby on the way, he goes through his days on autopilot as a second grade teacher. Things change when, while on a field trip, a dead body is discovered. This triggers in Frank a desperate re-examination of his past and his relationship with his high school love as he tries to find answers for his present life.

Bright Before Us is an intriguing look at one man’s spiral into paranoia, mistrust and his own past. The author deftly shows how Frank creates an intricate story to explain away his behavior and also nicely weaves reality in with the past, creating a question of whether anything Frank is experiencing is real. The main issue lies within Frank himself – he is neither a nice man nor a particularly appealing character. He is cruel to everyone around him and it is difficult to find compassion for him or understand why the reader should care about his story. This, unfortunately, detracts from the book.

Barbara Cothern

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