Sonya used to perform on stage. She attended glamorous parties, dated handsome men, rode in fast cars. But somewhere along the way, the stage lights Sonya lived for dimmed to black. In their absence, came darkness—blackouts, empty cupboards, hazy nights she could not remember. What kept her from losing herself completely was Tommy, her son. But her love for Tommy rivaled her love for the bottle. Eventually Sonya was forced to make a choice. Give up drinking or lose Tommy—forever.
Intense and unnerving ... There’s a lot to lament, and even more to rail against, in a novel that becomes a ferocious jeremiad against life’s suffocating forces ... It’s moments of sobering clarity such as this, and their promise of a redemptive ending, that carry the reader through so many harrowing pages of self-evisceration ... Harding’s protagonist is a singular creation: complex, contrary, drily funny in a characteristically Irish fashion. Written with great energy and generosity, Bright Burning Things is the raw and emotional story of a woman’s search for self-knowledge; one that grips from the beginning.
Lisa Harding’s second novel, Bright Burning Things is moving—humane and emotionally scrubbed raw—as a depiction of Sonya’s journey to the bottom of the bottle and (after her father’s intervention) her desperate efforts to claw her way back to sobriety to regain her life ... Bright Burning Things...offers both Sonya and the readers strands of hope. And despite its grim narrative, the book has its lighter, funnier moments ... Harding channels Sonya’s exposed nerve endings with a potent poignancy ... While Sonya resists embracing the surrender to a higher power, she does find sympathetic and thoughtful allies ... Their help doesn’t provide any simple answers or pat endings for Sonya. Harding is too determined to make us see the potential pitfalls that will forever lurk out there [.]
If you liked Shuggie Bain, you will adore Bright Burning Things for many reasons, specifically for the trenchant portrayal of alcoholism and the havoc it can wreak ... Harding’s familiarity with a rehab facility and the detoxification process is poignantly evident through her spare, candid language from the moment Sonya passed through the rehab’s gates ... Harding’s depiction of an alcoholic’s path to recovery is exceptional in its psychological acuity. She depicts Sonya struggling desperately with sorrow and addiction for much of the novel, drawing the reader into a vortex of helplessness. I was particularly struck by the moving scenes of an alcoholic’s physical and mental pain inside a long-term detox center, illuminating just how tough it is for an alcoholic to change their behavior.