Saturday, October 6, 2007

Bridge of Sighs

Loyal Dailybookbuddy readers may remember the ridiculous level of anticipation I had for this book. While I did enjoy and highly recommend it, I'm afraid it didn't quite live up to my impossibly high expectations for a Richard Russo book. After winning the Pulitzer for Empire Falls, it appears that Russo felt the need to write a Very Important Book. Bridge of Sighs tackles lots of issues of class, race, what it means to be an American, how much choice we have over our life's direction. I wouldn't characterize Russo as a subtle writer anyway, but his characters are constantly asking themselves series of rhetorical questions about the Big Issues. To Russo's credit, he never supplies the reader with easy answers. The story basically revolves around two boys--Lucy Lynch, the likable optimist who is content to live in Thomaston all his life and his counterpart, Bobby Noonan, who leaves Thomaston and never looks back, eventually settling in as a famous painter in Venice. Lucy's wife, Sarah, loved them both but chooses Lucy in the end. The three lives threaten to converge once more when the Lynches plan a trip to Venice thirty years later. The story is primarily told in Lucy's memoir of his childhood and adolescence, and this conceit is sometimes a bit awkward. If you're new to Russo, I wouldn't start with this book (I'd go with The Risk Pool or Straight Man). But it's still filled with great writing and vivid characters (this book probably has his best-written female characters). It may not be quite as funny or seamless as some of his previous work, but I still don't think I've read a better book this year.

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