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Bright's Passage

3.47  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,172 Ratings  ·  409 Reviews

Henry Bright has newly returned to West Virginia from the battlefields of the First World War. Griefstruck by the death of his young wife and unsure of how to care for the infant son she left behind, Bright is soon confronted by the destruction of the only home he’s ever known. His hopes for safety rest with the angel who has followed him to Appalachia
ebook, 224 pages
Published June 28th 2011 by The Dial Press (first published 2011)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
My spoiler-free review:

Henry Bright talks to his horse. That wouldn't be so unusual, except that his horse is the one who started the conversation. Or so Henry believes. He's convinced he brought an angel back with him from the war in France, and now it's guiding his life and communicating through his horse. Now, that might not sound so bad if you believe in angels, but this one is directing Henry to do things that are dangerous and destructive. He kidnaps a girl, has a child with her, and after
Oct 24, 2011 David rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Josh Ritter, the soft-opinioned, pretty-riffing, lavender enthusiast song-writer from Idaho, wrote in my copy of his first novel: "Smoothtavious! May all the better angels attend you... Love, Josh Ritter." You see, he came to my local book store and gave a reading. He read a passage or two and played a song or two and repeated the process a few times. It was pretty fun. I'm told that writers would rather be musicians, so his life seems pretty win-win right now.

Josh Ritter's thing -- his THING,
This is the first novel by singer/songwriter Josh Ritter, the story of a WWI veteran who returns home to the hills of West Virginia, marries the girl he knew as a child and has a baby who is to be the next King of Heaven. A tall tale, shell shock, myth, a little of all...the novel is a post war fable of love and hate, good and evil, talking animals, and ultimately good people.

It does move back and forth in time, which some might find troublesome but I actually came to look forward to these moves
Oct 08, 2011 Mike rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to love this book. I wanted it to ooze emotion and ambiance in the same way that Ritter's songs do. I wanted each chapter to be a finely polished jewel like so many of his songs. I will say that for all of those high hopes I was disappointed. But really, if this had been any other first time author of whom I had no preconceived notions, I would have probably been happier.

As I read through the book I certainly found myself compelled by the personalities of the characters, the plots and t
I have mixed feelings about this debut novel by Josh Ritter called BRIGHT'S PASSAGE.

As I sit here in recall mode, I am surprised that my memory thinks it has just watched a movie. Vivid scenes are popping up one after the other: many include a scrawny young man (Henry Bright) in a uniform --with eyes veiled in suffering, fear, loss, bewilderment -- while some include a tattered old Colonel whose falsely grand manner cannot hide a crazed meanness of purpose.

Other images include a girl in white;
Aug 10, 2011 Gail rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Bright's Passage" is a beautifully told narrative (one that reads quickly as more a short story than a novel) about a World War I veteran from West Virginia named Henry Bright whose wife has died in childbirth, leaving him in charge of caring for his infant son. When his cabin goes up in flames, Bright must make his way through Appalachian wilderness in search of salvation, escaping a father-in-law with a vendetta and entrusting his fate to a guardian angel who's followed him home from the tren ...more
S. Kay Murphy
Jul 17, 2011 S. Kay Murphy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fire both purges and destroys. The same can be said of war. As the American Civil War swept across the land, it purged the country from an insidious practice, nearly destroying it in the process.

Ritter's novel is a reminder to us that dressing a man up in a military uniform does not necessarily make him a man worthy of honor and respect, and that at times, draping a military action in the guise of honorable intentions issues an unrestricted license for brutal acts of cruelty and carnage.

And ye
Aug 06, 2011 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Carol by: Michael Kindness, BOTNS
Shelves: fiction
Debut Author Josh Ritter believes angels are far from being benign characters. This might explain why he made an angel so much a character of his book, Bright's Passage. Michael Kindness of Books on the Nightstand raved about this book back in Episode 135, Writing So Good It Will Scare You". Michael described the plot as the story of Henry Bright who returns from World War I with an angel on his side. The opening scene begins with Henry holding his infant son, mourning the death of his wife, Rac ...more
Dec 17, 2012 Ajk rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I like Josh Ritter a lot. A weird lot. I've seen him in concert a few times, I've driven from Idaho to Seattle while listening to his albums as a sort of sympathetic magic, I've tried to turn on various friends to various songs. So I really wanted to like this book.

I didn't, though. I listened to the book on tape version, narrated by Josh himself and intercut with musical interludes by his buddy and bassist. I heard that he wrote the book after starting out with this story as a song, and I can s
Feb 07, 2016 Kerry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I actually liked this better than I thought I would. The story really drew me in and I liked to arrangement of the pieces of the story. Love Josh's songwriting. Glad to see that the storytelling can translate across a different medium.
Christopher Green
I'm very skeptical of artists/celebrities who dabble in mediums beside the one in which they made their name. I'm a big fan of Josh Ritter's music and decided to check out his book not only because I think he is a skilled lyricist, but also because I think he is a great storyteller.

I have to admit, I was a little disappointed in the novel. It wasn't horrible, however. I think the story was interesting a the plot was strong, but I was about halfway through the book before I really started caring
I wanted to like this book a lot more than I did, which is always dangerous.

I like Josh Ritter's music. I give out free stars to books featuring horses, especially if they're on the cover. But I didn't enjoy the book.

The premise is that an angel followed Henry Bright (great name, by the way) back from the War and is on a quest to help Bright birth and raise the Future King of Heaven. For convenience's sake, the angel inhabits Bright's horse. So the book really isn't so much about a horse as ab
While Bright's Passage feels like Charles Frazier's elegiac style or Lief Enger's spiritual tale Peace Like a River, it is an underdeveloped story.

While Henry Bright is fighting in the first World War he meets an angel in a church in an abandoned village in France. The Angel protects him for the rest of his time there. She shoes up as a voice emanating from his horse after he returns home. She then directs him to take the woman he was in love with the ominous character, The Colonel. Rachel dies
Karen Germain
Oct 14, 2011 Karen Germain rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I think if you asked me, I would tell you that 'war stories' are not my thing. Reading Josh Ritter's debut novel, Bright's Passage reminded me that I would be lying to you. Some of the most beautiful stories come out of terrible wars, and I cannot deny their effect on me: surprise at my reaction toward them ("But, I don't like war stories!"), sadness for the tragedy and horror, too... But, they are also books that stay with me. You know, the good kind of literature that follows you around and do ...more
Kyle Warren
Sep 07, 2011 Kyle Warren rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
Josh Ritter has rested within my top 5 list of contemporary musicians since I first listened to him in college. His songs are packed with symbolism and deep meaning and a beautiful, poetic way of delivering to the listener his story. It was comforting (but also not surprising) that these talents were well reflected in this novel. It was almost like a fable, with the angel and everything; I'm glad that he didn't feel the need to explain things, such as why is a horse talking to this man? It just ...more
Janet McLarty Fretter
I wanted to like this book, because I wanted to give kudos to Josh for stepping outside his songwriting comfort zone and creating within a new genre. However, from the very beginning, even aside from the requirement to suspend disbelief that the first chapter demanded of the reader, I had the uncomfortable impression that he wrote the entire tale with an open Thesaurus beside him. The word choices were frequently stilted and overly self-conscious for the thing being described.
I spent half the b
Sep 04, 2011 Darrenglass rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel tells the story of Henry Bright, a soldier who has recently returned from World War I, who is grieving the loss of his bride and trying to take care of his newborn son, all while trying to escape the wrath of his father-in-law, who is not so happy about recent events. Oh, and the whole time Bright is taking instructions from conversations with his horse, who (he believes) is an angel that followed him back from Europe.

Now, this isnt really the type of novel I typically enjoy. I'm not
Sep 01, 2013 Colleen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Love, love, love, this man's ability to play with language in a way that leaves me reeling with beautiful images and strong emotion. His songwriting is smart, astute, entertaining, and personable. In person, he is a rollicking good time. For all of these reasons, I loved reading Ritter's novel. Almost an addendum to his music, this book is rich with motifs that play out in his song: war, love, loss, angels, god, and a simple image of life that is as gritty as it is romantic. I can't say what I w ...more
Nov 02, 2011 Denise rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Part historical fiction, part fantasy. I am not familiar with the author, who is apparently an established singer/songwriter, but is is beautifully written. Each chapter reads like a short story, chronicling Henry Bright's life during the war in France, his childhood in rural WV and life returning after the war. The author gives you just enough details without getting you bogged down. It is quite suspenseful up to the very end. If you can suspend disbelief and allow the story to be told, it is q ...more
Sep 20, 2011 Donna rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I nearly gave up on this book at page ten but returned the next day to give it another try. If you can get past a rather slow start and the odd premise of a man conversing with an angel in the guise of a horse, then you will find that the story flows quickly and is rather compelling. As Henry Bright and his newborn son seek safety from a raging fire, the story shifts in time between Henry Bright's childhood and his wartime experiences that have left him traumatized. It is ultimately the story of ...more
Feb 18, 2016 Brian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Bright’s Passage” is a short, quick read of a novel that at times is so lyrical you can hear the music underscoring it. That is no surprise since its author is Josh Ritter a singer/songwriter whose work I have a fleeting familiarity with. However, the novel has a strength in being written by a songwriter as there are numerous times in the text when there are lines that are packed with layers of meaning, like the best poetry.
The novel takes place in West Virginia immediately following WW I, and
May 19, 2014 Shannon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This story follows the tale of Henry Bright, a young man newly returned from WW1 to his childhood home in West Virginia. He returns to rebuild what was broken by his mother’s death and his leaving for the war. He takes a wife, gains her father as a mortal enemy, and becomes a father himself. All along, he communicates with an angel, from the battlefields of France to the shadows of the Appalachian Mountains, he takes guidance from this supposed heavenly host.

Bright is embroiled with not only ext
John Smith
Feb 23, 2014 John Smith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I like josh ritter. he seems like a earnestly good guy, a trait I usually hate, but enjoy in him, because he is also genuine and talented. as a songwriter, he is rare. He is very conventional (there are plenty of even-tempered folkies around, most god-awful), but he is also very good. I'd say he is the only traditionally folkish, rocky, post-Dylan songwriter of the decade to rank among the greats, like townes van Zandt and john prine, as a distinct and memorable entity.

anyway, I like him, which
Feb 03, 2014 Mary rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
At first, I will admit that I found some of the writing a little...clunky. But then he hit his stride, and this quirky little story pulled me in. My husband was lured as well - he happened to pick up the book while we were on vacation and ended up continuing to pull it away from me to read more.

Bright's Passage is about a man named Henry Bright, who has recently returned from World War I, and the angel who has followed him home. The chapters alternate between his time in the war and present day
Feb 08, 2014 Heather rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
A+, writing as beautiful as his lyrics
Aug 24, 2011 Jackie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Josh Ritter's book is an embryonic classic. His writing has the power to entrap. He weaves a myth of America that would stand happily alongside Steinbeck. And Henry Bright and his passage, through war and through peace is a journey worth travelling. I first heard of this book on a radio show. Have long loved Josh Ritter's songwriting. Now I eagerly await his next novel. Writers like this are rare treasures.
Jason Smith
Great potential and shimmers of brilliance. Overall I enjoyed and recommend this book to others. Actually I would recommend Josh's music with 5 stars as he is one of my favorite artists. Stephen King's review in the NY times nailed this novel. There were beautiful passages, but as a whole the novel lacked something. Well worth reading, seems like this would work well as a screenplay.
a four star wwI novel, a pretty good hillbilly noir, and fair to middlin' plot, but great characters, a snarky angel, and shudder-inducing in-laws make for a fast, entertaining read. by ritter, and indie folk rocker. This reminded me a bit of latino magical realism meets Jack London's "Iron Heel"
Duncan Cannon
Aug 20, 2014 Duncan Cannon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I discovered this book as a fan of Josh Ritter's music, like many other readers. A few reviews here say that this book lacks the lyricism and almost magical feeling that his music is known for, and I completely disagree. I found the novel to be incredibly captivating and I very much enjoyed the prose.

If you are unsure about this book, go to his SoundCloud page and listen to him read the first chapter.

The only real qualm I had about this book was the organization, which I thought seemed choppy bu
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50 Books in 2011 ...: Aaron's (51)50 2 9 Sep 21, 2011 06:53AM  
  • The Angel's Cut (Vintner's Luck, #2)
  • How the Mistakes Were Made
  • The Reservoir
  • Conscience: Two Soldiers, Two Pacifists, One Family--a Test of Will andFaith in World War I
  • The Golden Shore: California's Love Affair with the Sea
  • Rare Atmosphere: An Extraordinary Inter-dimensional Affair of the Heart
  • A Moment in the Sun
  • Argall
  • The Upright Piano Player
  • Among the Wonderful: A Novel
  • The Tall Woman
  • Charity Girl
  • Mountain City
  • Sun Going Down
  • Sail Away: Journeys of a Merchant Seaman
  • The Bee-Loud Glade
  • Invisible Fences
  • Moving Pictures
Josh Ritter is from Moscow, Idaho. The son of two neuroscientists, he was on his way to follow in their footsteps when he discovered Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan's "Girl from the North Country" in high school. He has since released six studio albums and has been recently named one of the 100 greatest living songwriters by Paste Magazine, alongside Dylan, Springsteen, and Neil Young. Joan Baez has cov ...more
More about Josh Ritter...

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