‘AN OBSERVER, GRAZIA, IRISH TIMES AND IRISH INDEPENDENT HIGHLIGHT FOR 2021‘
– Bright Burning Things
[ About the Book ]
Being Tommy’s mother is too much for Sonya.
Too much love, too much fear, too much longing for the cool wine she gulps from the bottle each night. Because Sonya is burning the fish fingers, and driving too fast, and swimming too far from the shore, and Tommy’s life is in her hands.
Once there was the thrill of a London stage, a glowing acting career, fast cars, handsome men. But now there are blackouts and bare cupboards, and her estranged father showing up uninvited. There is Mrs O’Malley spying from across the road. There is the risk of losing Tommy – forever.
[ My Review ]
Bright Burning Things by Lisa Harding will be published with Bloomsbury March 4th and has been described by Donal Ryan as “a tense, unflinching, immersive mapping of a pitted track of addiction and recovery . . .” A book that is very raw, where the fragility of the main character and narrator, Sonya Moriarty, is laid bare for all to see, Bright Burning Things does not shy away from the painful emotional journey of an addict. Sonya was an actress with a bright shining career ahead of her. With a personality very much driven by her moods, the stage loved Sonya. She could capture perfectly the role she was playing bringing her characters very much alive for her audiences. She relished in the praise and reviews she received, living a fast life and relishing the buzz of the aftermath of these performances. But there was one role that Sonya was not prepared for and that was motherhood.
Returning to a small cottage in Dublin, Sonya initially embraced the prospect of being a mother. She loved her young son Tommy. He was her world. Her own mother had died when Sonya was young and this experience scarred her for life. She never really came to terms with it, blocking out early memories and developing a very fractured relationship with her father. Sonya took comfort in a glass of wine when the loneliness would greet her and when her demons came out to play. Her mental state was very delicate jumping from huge highs to some dark lows and, over time, that one glass turned into one bottle which turned into three. When sober she was extreme in her behaviour with Tommy, running fast, swimming fast and driving fast. Tommy was four years old. Tommy loved his Mummy. Tommy was scared…
Sonya clearly needs help and eventually, through her father’s intervention, Sonya goes into a rehabilitation centre. Her choices are stark. Get sober or lose Tommy. Through heart-breaking weeks Sonya starts into a detox session experiencing multiple knocks to her confidence but Sonya has an underlying tenacity that drives her forward. She will recover. She will, and can, be Tommy’s mother again. Sonya is very unprepared for the different Tommy that greets her when she walks out that front door. He is a more sterile version of himself and he is unsure of his mother…
Bright Burning Things is Sonya’s story. It is Tommy’s story. Sonya is an alcoholic with a cloudy past that is never fully developed yet the pieces provided are enough for the reader to get a glimpse into her life. Beautifully crafted Lisa Harding brings Sonya and Tommy’s story very much alive for the reader with all their internal fears and emotions laid before us. Tommy’s words to Sonya are filled with the anxiousness and innocence of a child and are absolutely heartrending to read. He sees his world so differently to how Sonya sees it. She knows she has slipped badly. She knows she must control her rising temper. She knows she is on a very thin line and she knows she needs help. Sonya is an alcoholic with addled thoughts and the justifications of an addict always alongside her. Sonya is frighteningly real with Lisa Harding capturing her completely and exposing her bare for all to see. Her thoughts are sometimes so difficult to grasp as they move around jumbled and scattered like confetti in the wind. She is broken. Reading Sonya’s grasp of her reality and the pure pain within her thoughts is so very tragic yet there is also an underlying sense of determination and a feeling that she can do this, she can conquer her dark side and live with a sense of hope for a better future for herself and Tommy. Sonya needs to control the voices in her head. She needs to take charge of her life. She needs to recover and to be the mother to Tommy that she wants and dreams to be.
Bright Burning Things is a stunning portrait of the fragility of the human soul. It is a story of determination and love, one of hope and forgiveness. Lisa Harding writes in a very unique style, one that has it’s own personality and texture giving Sonya and Tommy a voice that will remain with the reader long after the final page is turned. A story of the pull of addiction and the complexity of motherhood, Bright Burning Things is a compelling, disturbing and beautiful novel, a tour de force for Lisa Harding.
[ Bio ]
Lisa Harding is a writer, actress, playwright. Her previous novel, Harvesting, was a bestseller in Ireland, won the Kate O’ Brien Award and has been optioned by Out of Orbit films, to be directed by Michael Lennox, the director of Derry Girls She lives in Dublin.
Twitter ~ @LisaSHarding