Tuesday, February 16, 2010

'Bridge of Sighs': A Story of Fate, Choices and Regrets

Review: BRIDGE OF SIGHS (Kindle Edition 2007); also available in print from Vintage (2008)
Author: Richard Russo

When we meet Lou C. Lynch, the main character in BRIDGE OF SIGHS, he's a 60-year-old man who's risen to prominence in Thomaston, the small upstate New York town where he grew up. Lou (or "Lucy," as he's dubbed early on by his peers, due to an unfortunate choice of first name and middle initial) appears, at first, to be someone completely comfortable in his own skin. He's been a life-long Thomaston resident and has never strayed far from home, despite the town's decay. However, as he writes his memoirs, various questions begin to plague him. Questions about the accuracy of his memory, the strength of his marriage and his own identity.

One of Lou's earliest problems is his on-again, off-again friendship with Bobby Marconi. The Lynches and Marconis present opposing pictures of family life. The Lynches (headed by Lou's affable, if unrealistic, father and his shrewd, no-nonsense mother) seem to be happy and stable, while the Marconis (headed by their angry, controlling father and weak, pathetic mother) present a much more volatile tableau.

The two families are brought together by circumstance or fate, so that Lou and Bobby end up being friends (or, at least, Bobby deigns to be Lou's friend). Lou suffers a traumatic experience in his childhood, which leads to what he calls his "spells." It's no accident that these spells tend to be prefaced by disconnects between Lou's expectations about himself or his family and any possible harsher realities.

Two other families, represented by Sarah Berg, the only child of a broken marriage, and Nan Beverly, the privileged daughter of one of the town's elite, come into the picture when the girls each start dating one of the boys. Sarah, a gifted artist with the potential to set the world on fire with her talent, ends up settling down and marrying Lou. To reveal more about Bobby and Nan would risk spoilers. Suffice it to say, Bobby ends up leaving Thomaston – fleeing it, actually – after a fateful night and going on to live abroad as the artist Sarah could have been.

For the entire review, go to: http://modern-american-fiction.suite101.com/article.cfm/review-of-bridge-of-sighs

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