Bright Burning Things: A Novel - book cover
  • Publisher : HarperVia
  • Published : 07 Dec 2021
  • Pages : 336
  • ISBN-10 : 0063097141
  • ISBN-13 : 9780063097148
  • Language : English

Bright Burning Things: A Novel


"On every page there are little shimmering bombs. Like Room, where parenthood is at once your jail and your salvation, it is almost claustrophobic-but in the most glorious way."-Lisa Taddeo, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Three Women and Animal

A rising international literary star makes her American debut with this visceral, tender, and brave portrait of addiction, recovery, and motherhood, as harrowing and intense as Shuggie Bain.

Sonya used to perform on stage. She used to attend glamorous parties, date handsome men, ride in fast cars. But somewhere along the way, the stage lights Sonya lived for dimmed for good. In their absence, came darkness-blackouts, empty cupboards, hazy nights she can't remember.

What keeps Sonya from losing herself completely is Tommy, her son. But her immense love for Tommy is in fierce conflict with her immense love of the bottle. Addiction amplifies her fear of losing her child; every maternal misstep compels her to drink. Tommy's precious life is in her shaky hands. 

Eventually Sonya is forced to make a choice. Give up drinking or lose Tommy-forever.

Bright Burning Things is an emotional tour-de-force-a devastating, nuanced, and ultimately hopeful look at an addict's journey towards rehabilitation and redemption.

A MOST ANTICIPATED BOOK FROM: Washington Post, The Millions, PopSugar, Shondaland, Good Morning America, Nylon, Good Housekeeping, Town & Country

Editorial Reviews

"On every page, there are little shimmering bombs." -- Lisa Taddeo, author of Three Women

"Absolutely dazzling. While the subject matter is dear to my heart, I'd have loved it even if I knew nothing about addiction. It's instantly engrossing. Sonya's emotional interiority is fascinating and compelling." -- Marian Keyes

"Quietly devastating . . . Reminded me repeatedly of Shuggie Bain." -- The Observer (London)

"[A] wild ride, culminating in a final scene that combines hope, fear and beauty." -- The Guardian

"Lisa Harding is a vivid and original stylist and a gifted storyteller. This is a fabulous novel." -- Kevin Barry, author of Night Boat to Tangier

"Bright Burning Things is moving-humane and emotionally scrubbed raw....Both books [Shuggie Bain and Bright Burning Things] deal with addiction and the trauma that befalls the loved ones of addicts...Bright Burning Things, by contrast, offers both Sonya and the readers strands of hope." -- Boston Globe

"[A] moving story of a mother battling addiction … Bright Burning Things joins Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine and Shuggie Bain as a portrait of female wreckage." -- The Times (UK)

"[A] propulsive heart-wrencher…an alarming yet tender portrayal of the slow-burn impact of long-repressed grief." -- Daily Mail (UK)

"In Irish writer Harding's blistering U.S. debut, a former London stage actress finds her life in Dublin derailed by disappointment and alcoholism....Harding brilliantly captures both the hilarity and wisdom of Sonya's 12-step program, with her time in rehab poignantly complicated by Sonya's separation from Tommy and her fear she might not be reunited with him....This unflinching portrait of a troubled, tender soul takes readers to the depths of the human heart." -- Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Rich with layered character dynamics and unexpected turns, Bright Burning Things is riveting."
-- Shelf Awareness

Readers Top Reviews

John RAMOLyn
A present for my wife who was bought up in Dublin and visited Sandymount Strand regularly. so a must really. But the book lived up to any expectations and surpassed them. Thank you Lisa!
bubblesVincent McCan
It felt like this book was written in two parts. I enjoyed the beginning although I found the main character really irritating. But the second half? Ridiculous plot lines, annoying characters. Didn't enjoy the second half at all. Bought this book as it said it was similiar to Shuggie Bains (which is so good). It isn't. Main character seems to me to be just stupid.
VolunteerValAmy S. B
I haven't experienced a loved one being addicted to alcohol, but feel I've glimpsed the roller coaster of emotions by reading Bright Burning Things by Lisa Harding. The premise: In present day Ireland, Sonya is an unemployed actor living with an out-of-control addiction. She loves her 4-year-old son Tommy very much, but alcoholism has an tight grip on her life. Their days swing widely from manic excitement to real danger, depending upon Sonya's level of intoxication. Tommy and their dog Herbie often fend for themselves, attempting to care for Sonya on her worst days. Every emotion Sonya experiences is intense and extreme. After a particularly dangerous event, Sonya's mostly-absent father intervenes and demands she participate in a three-month inpatient treatment program. She's devastated to be away from Tommy but has little choice. To her own surprise, she completes the program and begins re-entry to daily life without alcohol. Predictably, all does not go smoothly, but the novel has a hopeful yet abrupt conclusion. Many thanks to HarperCollins for the review copy of the audiobook expertly narrated by the author, a former London stage actress. I began listening at 1.0 speed because the narration is quick and disjointed, perfectly conveying Sonya's manic thoughts and actions. At times, it felt like being caught in a whirlwind. I could listen for only an hour or so before I needed a mental break from the intensity.
Carla S.
BRIGHT BURNING THINGS by Lisa Harding is a heart-wrenching and thought-provoking story of motherhood, addiction and recovery that I couldn’t put down. Sonya Moriarty was once a successful stage actress, living a fast-paced and glamorous life. When her stint in the spotlight ended, Sonya’s life began spiraling out of control. She turned to alcohol to blot out the pain of her failed career and the memories of childhood trauma she never got over. The only things worthwhile in her life are her four-year-old son, Tommy and their beloved rescue dog, Herbie. She loves Tommy with a ferocity that is almost claustrophobic, yet her need for the bottle has repeatedly put his life in danger. When a neighbor and her estranged father stage an intervention and force Sonya into a three-month detoxification/rehabilitation program, it becomes clear that she must get sober or she will lose Tommy forever. Told entirely from Sonya’s point of view, we witness her gut-wrenching and deeply emotional journey back from addiction. At times Sonya’s story was so distressing, I had to set down the book for a moment. Yet, her plight is portrayed with an honesty and compassion that is powerful and moving. I highly recommend this compelling story of family and redemption.
kathleen g
A powerful frantic novel about Sonya, who has fallen down the rabbit hole of alcoholism, and her four year old son Tommy. Sonya isn't keeping it together- even she knows that. She loves Tommy and her rescue dog Herbie but there's no food in the house, no clean clothes, no clean dishes, and Tommy knows too much about her demons. Then, her father steps in and she's sent to rehab but Tommy is taken into care. This isn't an easy story at all. It's told in a stream of consciousness, with small details about Sonya's back story coming out slowly and others, such as her vegetarianism, always in the forefront. She has a chance encounter with David at a pizza restaurant where things go horribly wrong and he becomes, later, part of her life. It's beautifully written. Thanks to Edelweiss for the ARC. There are no easy answers here. Great read.

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