Markus Zusak author of the acclaimed novel and now title movie, The Book Thief, is on the verge of his second release. Zusak’s latest work Bridge of Clay, is a multigenerational family portrait that deals with issues of loss, regret, creation, and the danger and joy of love. Told by Matthew Dunbar, the oldest of the Dunbar brothers, Bridge of Clay is less about its narrator and more about Clay: the brother who bridged a broken family, a broken past, and a broken peace.
Bridge of Clay reaches across and through time to tell the story of the five Dunbar boys. The story, though, starts before the brothers are born, with their mother Penelope and the struggles she overcame to become the person they came to know. There’s also the boys’ father, Michael, and the loss and pain he was swept up in before and after his sons were born. Then there’s the meeting of Penelope and Michael in the midst of a piano delivery gone wrong. There’s the Iliad and the Odyssey, there’s Carey to almost-famous jockey, and Clay’s best friend. Threads and threads woven together to tell Zusak’s saga.
Through all this mass of time, Matthew begins his story at one of many beginnings, which is also a middle and an end. Much of Zusak’s novel is told in this way: circling through distant past, near past, and present so that the reader at times can’t be sure which part of the circle she’s in or why it matters. Sometimes the reader reaches the curve of that story 100 or 500 pages later, and suddenly something makes perfect sense. While this device, at times, can make aspects of the various storylines seem irrelevant, it’s a device that in the end makes the reader realize she’s read a masterpiece. That being said, she needs to make it to the end to have that realization.
Much of the novel is contemplative in nature and has a beautiful stillness that moves the reader into all different ranges of emotions: joy, sadness, pain. The effort it takes to maneuver through the tangles of time and truly get to know the characters is great. The end makes all the reader’s struggles well worth while though and rewards those who have the stamina to make it.
Slated for release by Knopf publishing on October 9, 2018, you can order a copy of Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak from your local bookstore.
FTC Disclaimer: This book was given to me in return for a fair and honest review of the text.