Saturday, February 23, 2008

Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo

Bridge of Sighs
By Richard Russo
Completed February 23, 2008

Sitting in front of you is a huge piece of delicious chocolate cake. It’s covered with fudge icing and slightly chilled to help you enjoy the rich chocolate goodness. Without a doubt, this chocolate cake is an art form all its own.

Presented with such succulent sweetness, are you the type to devour it in a few bites because you cannot wait for each delicious morsel? Or, are you more likely to take small bites to enjoy each fudgy nugget as its own tiny piece of heaven?

You are the latter? Great - I highly recommend Richard Russo’s latest book, Bridge of Sighs, to you. Everyone else – the impatient kind like me – probably can skip this turtle of a novel.

In Bridge of Sighs, readers explored the lives of Lou C. (aka Lucy) Chapman and his childhood friend, Robert Noonan (aka Bobby Marconi). Lucy and Robert are exact opposites: Lucy stayed in his small town all his life, Robert was an international artist living in Venice; Lucy was a wimp, Robert was a bully; Lucy was a guy you can count on, Robert made unreliability an art form. The book mostly centered on Lucy’s life with recollections from his childhood mixed with his present life. In Lucy’s sections, the readers learned about Thomaston, New York, over a fifty-year time span – small-town narratives that are the trademark to Russo’s storytelling. Love triangles, racial issues, sickness and bullying all found their place in this book.

While Russo is a master of small-town yarns, he took his time unraveling this story. Have you ever encountered an older gentleman who can talk for hours and hours about his life, each tale its own mini-adventure? That’s Lucy. It took more than 500 pages to get his story told. Each page and chapter rode like a steady tide, with small ebbs and flows. Sometimes a large wave moved the story along, but often it’s the rhythmic push and pull that advanced the story.

It’s no fault of Bridge of Sighs that I continuously lost my patience with this story. In fact, I cannot contend that the book needed better editing or a more direct style. It’s how Richard Russo writes his books, and you either like it or you don’t. I guess I am the kind who eats my chocolate cake really fast.

I would recommend Bridge of Sighs to readers who can take each page and relish in the beautiful language, narrative style and small-town wonder. If you are the patient kind, I think you will be richly rewarded with this tale about friendships and small towns. ( )

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