Bright Burning Things: A Novel (Hardcover)
December 2021 Indie Next List
“Wow, what a ride. Written from the warped perspective of an alcohol-addicted mother, this book was hard to put down. The writing is genuine and charming, the characters unique within their own individual skins. I absolutely loved it.”
— Tracey Bowes, Pressed, Erie, PA
“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 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.
Haunted by her failed career and lingering trauma from her childhood, Sonya fell deep into an alcoholic abyss. What kept her from losing herself completely was Tommy, her son. But her love for Tommy rivaled her love for the bottle. Addiction amplified her fear of losing her child; every maternal misstep compelled her to drink. Tommy’s precious life was in her shaky hands.
Eventually Sonya was forced to make a choice. Give up drinking or lose Tommy—forever.
Bright Burning Things is an emotional tour-de-force—a devastating and nuanced look at an addict’s journey towards rehabilitation and redemption.
Lisa Harding is a writer, actress, playwright. She received an MPhil in creative writing from Trinity College Dublin in 2014. Her short stories have been published in the Dublin Review, the Bath Short Story Anthology, HeadStuff, and Winter Papers. Her first novel, Harvesting, won the 2018 Kate O'Brien Award and was shortlisted for an Irish Book Award and the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year Award. She lives in Dublin.
— 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
"[Harding’s] writing is taut, and there is such an intensity, an urgency about the narrative that you find yourself turning the pages as if you fear Sonya might race out of sight. Bright Burning Things is a contemporary, zeitgeisty read and very satisfying.”
— The Independent
"[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
“Through Harding’s realistic writing, one feels the profound desperation and pain of addiction. Readers won’t soon forget this viscerally raw immersion into addiction.”
— Library Journal (starred review)
“Unputdownable: infuriating, nerve-wracking and hugely enjoyable."
— Roddy Doyle, author of Smile