Bonnie's Reviews > Bridge of Sighs

Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo
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's review
Apr 06, 13

bookshelves: contemporary-fiction, family-dynasty
Read in February, 2012

This book was really good. And then it kept going and going and going and dear God, WHY WAS IT SO LONG!!! This book being called what it was, I thought this was going to be about Italy (specifically, Venice). Um, no. Apparently Russo’s shtick is small town Americana and that’s what this pretty much is.

This book is what a Jonathan Franzen book would be if he was any good at his job. Russo definitely is excellent at breathing life into a (fictional) small town and the many average people who inhabit it. Everyone seems real. Maybe not super special or super complex, but definitely REAL. Russo could easily be describing people you know.

Russo also is good at creating an unreliable narrator. It is very, very slightly hinted at but later shown that Lou Lynch is (view spoiler). You know something is off when Noonan offhandedly remembers the boy who committed suicide who was best friends with Lou – whereas Lou has never mentioned him, not once, and in fact has expunged the boy from his remembrance (and hence the audience’s knowledge) of his past. This is when I first thought that Lou was hiding something – why else would he so deliberately not mention this? How Noonan remembers things and how Lou remembers things don’t align. So, I like that. I like the narrator hiding the ball from the audience (as long as it is eventually revealed, of course).

The most dynamic characters by far were Lou’s mother and uncle. His mother was obviously all kinds of smart and it’s a shame that Lou was too dumb and loyal to his father to ever truly grasp that. But that woman could’ve been something in a different time and place. And his uncle was awesome too. A black sheep drunk, but also at heart a good guy—he goes out of his way to help out a black man in a racist town in a racist time. Completely nonchalantly, too. Obviously he’s not even thinking about it—it’s just something he does. And at the same time he is a drunk, gambler and flake. I want to read a book about him and what makes him tick. But, sadly, no. We get stuck with the schlub. I mean, Lou is fine, but when you realize you end up with three narrators and none of them are the most awesome characters in the book. Well. That is just disappointing.

Also, after the revelations at the end…nothing. (view spoiler) I dunno, I guess I like that Sarah and Lou’s mom chose the “nice guy” instead of the “bad boy” and never regretted their choices. But. I feel…like…I didn’t really connect with their choice. Stability over excitement is usually something I advocate, so maybe it was just me wishing something big would happen? This is Never Let Me Go all over again, where the book is focused not on excitement and heroes, but on who would normally be side characters. The normals who wander on and off screen avoid all the fun stuff.

Still, I’ll try another Russo book because I appreciate his way with characters.

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