Author and San Francisco Bay native Katie Arnold-Ratliff switched coasts to New York to help edit and regularly write for O, the magazine created by Chicago media mogul Oprah. Now, the Portland outfit of Tin House has published her debut novel, Bright Before Us, that spins a story set back in her old stomping grounds of Northern California.
Where Arnold-Ratliff typically pens rather fluffy, glossy magazine features, Bright Before Us tackles weighty issues plaguing the modern human condition. When her young teacher of a protagonist takes his class on a field trip and the kids discover a dead body, Francis Mason begins to mentally unravel. He becomes drastically nihilistic, distancing himself from both his pregnant wife and his job. His only solace is in long-lost memories of his first love, the one that got away. When his grief and paranoia become all consuming, he’s forced to come to terms with his outlook, and he, finally and begrudgingly, trudges into an ostensibly healthy adulthood.