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Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo
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Bridge of Sighs (2007)

by Richard Russo

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“A Bridge to Nowhere”


I’ve let the dust settle — and even read and reviewed another book — since finishing Richard Russo’s Bridge of Sighs. This, because I had mixed feelings about the novel. But also because I wanted to see how much of it would stick in my memory.

I’m happy to say that while many of the details have since evanesced, the substance of the story remains. In a word, I think this book is well worth reading.

Potential readers will note that Bridge of Sighs was a national bestseller by a Pulitzer Prize-winning author. I question neither the general public’s appetite for well-written literature nor the Pulitzer Prize Committee’s choice of Richard Russo to receive the prize in 2002 for another of his works — namely, Empire Falls. (I’m not really sure what it means to be a New York Times Notable Book; but with all of the schlock that gets published and promoted these days, this book certainly stands out from that dubious pack.)

What I do question, however, is Mr. Russo’s self-editing acumen. What I also question is the opinion of the reviewer for The Washington Post Book World who called the novel “…enormously moving.”

Let me be clear: I found the story engaging. I wanted to learn what happened to these characters — not to mention to the town of Thomaston (which figures throughout the story almost as a shadowy additional character). If memory serves, Bridge of Sighs reads a bit like Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel — which I read some 40 years ago—except for the setting, which is in the North rather than in the South.

Where, then, do I find fault? I believe Mr. Russo is an accomplished enough writer at this point to know how to tighten up his own prose. There were many incidents and descriptions I found in Bridge of Sighs that could easily have been cut—in fact, far too many for a professional writer. (Unlike Ernest Hemingway, I assume that Richard Russo is not getting paid by the word.)

This single caveat notwithstanding, I can only describe the novel as “epic.” If the storyline, itself, is less than Homeric, so be it. It is as good a story about American character as any I can imagine — even if much of that character (and that character’s environs) sadly seem to be in decline.

RRB
12/05/12
Brooklyn, NY
( )
  RussellBittner | Dec 12, 2014 |
I enjoyed the book. The cycling of themes. The characters, the families, the small town, the times. ( )
  Lissa28 | May 29, 2014 |
It wasn’t that I actively disliked this book. There just wasn’t much about it to sway me toward the “liked it” side of the line. It was more that…nothing changed. The characters grew up to be adult versions of their child and adolescent selves. The small town where they grew up stayed the same. Because three different characters were dipping in and out of history throughout the book, some events even got repeated. And not in a way that added much of anything to the event but just sort of rehashed the details I’d already gotten from someone else’s point of view. It all started to feel stagnant and tedious.

My full review is posted on Erin Reads. ( )
  erelsi183 | Feb 28, 2014 |
Although I didn't like this as much as Empire Falls, Richard Russo did what he does so well: he painted a picture of a small crumbling town and the people who live there. I was glad to have read his autobiography just before reading this. It gave some insight to his portrayal of Thomaston. ( )
  JGoto | Jan 29, 2014 |
BORING!!! ( )
  ptdilloway | Nov 21, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375414959, Hardcover)

Amazon Significant Seven, November 2007: Richard Russo's first book since the Pulitzer Prize-winning Empire Falls, Bridge of Sighs is a typically stunning portrait of three small town families struggling--like the town itself--to strike a balance between obsessively embracing their own history or shunning it entirely, with devastating consequences along both paths. Bridge of Sighs is pure Russo: funny, heartbreaking, and ringing completely true. --Jon Foro

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:21:03 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

"Louis Charles ("Lucy") Lynch has spent all his sixty years in upstate Thomaston, New York, married to the same woman, Sarah, for forty of them, their son now a grown man. Like his late, beloved father, Lucy is an optimist, though he's had plenty of reasons not to be - chief among them his mother, still indomitably alive. Yet it was her shrewdness, combined with that Lynch optimism, mat had propelled them years ago to the right side of the tracks and created an "empire" of convenience stores about to be passed on to the next generation." "Lucy and Sarah are also preparing for a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Italy, where his oldest friend, a renowned painter, has exiled himself far from anything they'd known in childhood. In fact, the exact nature of their friendship is one of the many mysteries Lucy hopes to untangle in the "history" he's writing of his hometown and family. And with his story interspersed with that of Noonan, the native son who'd fled so long ago, the destinies building up around both of them (and Sarah, too) are relentless, constantly surprising, and utterly revealing."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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