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Bright Burning Things

Thank you Bibliolifestyle and Harper Via for the #gifted copy of Bright Burning Things by Lisa Harding, in exchange for an honest review. #partner

Bright Burning Things by Lisa Harding is an unflinching, honest, visceral depiction of addiction, recovery and motherhood. Reading this book kept me in a constant state of worry and anxiety, which I imagine is what it feels like to watch a family member or loved one struggle with addiction. Bright Burning Things is being compared to Douglas Stuart's Shuggie Bain, but is different in that it is told from the perspective of the addict, rather than the addict's child. In this case, former actress, now mother to Tommy, Sonya is struggling with her alcohol addiction. Sonya is an unreliable narrator in a sense, as it is difficult to understand what is reality and what is clouded romanticism from Sonya's drunken state.

Sonya is such a flawed and complex character, that you cannot help but root for her and Tommy. As a mother myself, I felt extreme anxiety when it came to Sonya's struggle to get her son back after he enters foster care while she is in a recovery center. It is unclear if becoming a mother is what started Sonya's addiction, but as a mother I can say, children push you to your limits and I can understand wanting to have some form of escape.

That being said, Sonya's love for Tommy is never under question. She loves him fiercely and does what she needs to do in order to get her life on track and do what is best for him. Bright Burning Things is a tough read. It is not a feel-good book with a happy ending wrapped up in a bow. My one complaint was actually the ending. I wanted more. I wanted to know how Sonya and Tommy's story ends. But after reflecting, it makes sense. Life has no conclusion. We struggle, we overcome hardships, we live, and we repeat. Bright Burning Things by Lisa Harding is an emotional rollercoaster, buckle up.

Content warnings: addiction-including depiction of rehab facility, child neglect, emotional abuse, endangerment of a child, foster care system


Sonya used to be an actress, performing on stage, and she reveled in it. She is now a mother to four-year-old, Tommy, and struggles with alcohol addiction. Sonya's estranged father intervenes when Sonya's addiction puts Tommy in a dangerous situation. Sonya battles her addiction through recovery with the ultimate goal to be a better mother to Tommy.


3.5 - 4 stars

Favorite Quotes:

"These moments of lucidity are the worst, when the fog has cleared and cold reality lays claim to me, nipping at my heels, making me need to run again, and fast."

"As for solutions? The whole "I can't, God can: let him" thing still feels like a cop-out. Some part of me still believes in willpower, the need for it, to exercise it. And yet I know it's bigger than weakness, this addiction, it's bigger than any human force of will."

"I am wrestling with what it means to be a good mother. David says parenting self has to come first. Sister Anne said finding a sense of a loving parent is the only way to be one."

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