Bonfire is a smart, surprisingly complex novel about the tangled relationships we have with our pasts. The writing is gorgeous, and Krysten Ritter’s characters are razor-edged and ruthless. A must-read for fans of Megan Abbott. If you were drawn to Bonfire because you’ve seen Ritter on Jessica Jones, don’t let that sway you one way or the other. This work stands on its own. 4 stars.
Like a lot of people I was drawn to Bonfire solely having seen Krysten Ritter’s work on Jessica Jones. But you have to almost put that out of your mind, because anything good you have to say either sounds like pandering to a celeb, or an insult to the writer. “Wow, I was really surprised how good, how layered, it was.” See what I mean?
Bonfire is a smart, surprisingly complex novel about the tangled relationships we have with our pasts. The A story is that Abby Williams is back in her hometown, Barrens, Indiana, as part of an environmental legal team investigating water contamination claims. She’s also back to tug on a loose thread and face the ghosts of the queen bees who terrorized her in high school. In the process, she uncovers some disturbing connections between the case and a scandal that rocked the town years ago.
Ritter’s characters are as razor-edged and ruthless as some of Megan Abbott’s best. Her writing is gorgeous. Everything about Abby is illuminated in chapter 5, who she is, and just why she’s so conflicted about being back in the small town she grew up in. She got out, but somehow Barrens is pulling her back down like quicksand.
The story flips back and forth between the legal case and Abby telling us about the past. But at some point, I wondered, how long are we going to Erin Brockovich it up here, before we get to the heart of what’s going on? But when it does come, oh man, it is dark. The town is a cesspool and it’s not just the water.
For me, there was too much exposition on the front end and not enough after the reveal to give the reader real closure. All Abby wanted was the answer to a question, but I wanted consequences. I wanted comeuppance. I wanted Abby to burn it all down. The consequences do come, but they’re in a too quick epilogue that feels like the end of a movie. Still, it’s a pretty satisfying read.
Favorite line: “Time isn’t a line, but a corkscrew, and the harder I’ve pushed, the more I’ve drilled back into the past.”