Bonfire, by Krysten Ritter: a Book Review

I’ll be honest, I was perhaps a little unfairly skeptical of Krysten Ritter’s Bonfire. I didn’t want to believe that a glamorous movie star was capable of crafting a novel that I would enjoy. I was jealous of Krysten Ritter’s seemingly exciting life and her ability to somehow have the two careers I’ve always dreamed of. She couldn’t possibly be capable of writing a coherent novel, I scoffed. I was wrong. Bonfire was a riveting suspense novel, that I found myself utterly unable to put down.

Bonfire is the story of Abby Williams, a big town environmental lawyer haunted by her small town past. Abby, who has forged a successful career in Chicago is now returning to her hometown of Barrens, Indiana for the first time in 10 years. Tasked with investigating Optimal Plastics-the factory that employs the majority of the town’s population and whose generosity funds a great deal of the community’s endeavors, educational and otherwise, is now suspected of some wrong doing.

Abby knows that she has her work cut out for her in tackling the town’s much beloved saving grace. She knows that Optimal Plastics is a company that is so thoroughly ingrained within the community, and her task will be difficult. Even more difficult, will be tackling her troubled past. Making peace with her abusive father, as well as her former classmates who tried every available method to make her school days hell. Also pressing is the disappearance of Kaycee Mitchell. Most in the town, including Kaycee’s own father, insist that Kaycee ran away a decade ago. Abby suspects something more sinister may be at play.

Abby, as it would turn out, is not wrong. What follows is a gripping, suspenseful novel. Although it can be said that the novel’s villains do not necessarily come as a surprise, this is still a novel to be inhaled. If one of Gillian Flynn’s novels hooked up with Erin Brokovitch for a one-night stand, Bonfire would be their love child. I read Bonfire quickly, I found the story compelling and minus the porn shop, Barrens reminded me of my own hometown.

My two criticisms are the previously mentioned predictability of the “bad guys.” High school bullies turned nice guys, a high school crush offered up as a sudden love interest? This would be circumspect to anyone and shouldn’t come as a surprise when it turns out that they are the perpetrators of some very serious criminal activity. My second criticism is that “Barrens” isn’t quite as clever of a town name as Ritter had hoped, and her attempt at symbolism was a bit heavy handed. We get it, the town is small and Barren with nothing to offer.

All in all, I maintain that Bonfire was a good, quick read. It would be most excellent for an upcoming snow day spent curled up on the couch. If you liked it, I would suggest turning next to Dark Places, by Gillian Flynn, as this is also a mystery rich in one’s past catching up with them, or turning on the aforementioned Erin Brokovitch.

The past is just a story we tell. And all stories depend on the ending.



Author: Lee Ann Fryman

Lee Ann is a poet, fiction writer, and blogger located in Lexington, Kentucky. She received an MA in English from Northern Kentucky University, and has BAs in Theatre and English from Morehead State University.

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