The Long and Faraway Gone

I like to consider myself a disciplined reader. The discipline is necessary so that I don’t spend my days reading and get nothing done. Sometimes the discipline doesn’t work. My practice is to read for ten minutes (timed) and work for 30. This works well at the beginning of a book, because I’m usually not that invested that I can’t break away easily. At about a quarter of the way in, I will usually give myself permission to finish the chapter when the timer goes off. At the halfway point of a good story, I’ll go with an extra chapter, after I finish the chapter when the timer goes off. Then there are the books that defeat my discipline. The timer is put aside at the 2/3 point and I must read to the finish. It’s good that all books don’t lead me down this path to reading perdition.

An example of this type of book (and an excuse for my not getting more accomplished this past week) is a mystery by Lou Berney. The Long and Faraway Gone won the 2015 Oklahoma Book Award for fiction and more recently, an Edgar Award (national award for mystery). This book has a lot going for it, especially for those who live or have lived in the Oklahoma City area from the mid-eighties until the present. The author interweaves many locations that readers will recognize and often contrasts what they were in the past with the present. Two of the three cases the private detective protagonist is trying to crack took place in the eighties, and are based on true events that occurred during that time.

The characters of the story are finely drawn and the plot is worked so that the reader is kept in a state of tension through the deft switching among the three cases the protagonist is working. The third element, the pace of the narrative, is what brought me to a two-hour reading binge. There’s a skill in making the reader feel “in control” and able to put the book down, and moving to the point where the reader’s control is lost and the story pulls one in completely.

I enjoyed this book immensely and take pleasure in recommending this Oklahoma author and title to readers.