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Bright's Passage

3.47  ·  Rating details ·  2,507 ratings  ·  438 reviews
“Bright’s Passage shines with a compressed lyricism that recalls Ray Bradbury in his prime…This is the work of a gifted novelist…” – Stephen King, The New York Times Book Review

Josh Ritter’s first novel is a wondrous, suspenseful, and uniquely affecting story of the journey taken by a father and his infant son.

Henry Bright is newly returned to West Virginia from the ba
Hardcover, 193 pages
Published June 28th 2011 by The Dial Press (first published 2011)
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3.47  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,507 ratings  ·  438 reviews

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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
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 rated it liked it
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
Jul 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
I was hesitant about reading this novel. I love Josh Ritter's songwriting and musicianship dearly and was afraid that this novel would be an overambitious disappointment. It wasn't. I love this book. Josh Ritter proves that a good writer is a good writer in any medium.
Apr 10, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-groups, fiction
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;
Jul 14, 2011 rated it liked it
"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
Jul 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
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 rated it it was ok
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
S. Murphy
Jul 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
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.
Megan Baxter
Aug 17, 2018 rated it liked it
This is part of one of my stranger lists, the "read-alikes" suggest by NoveList. I took my top ten lists from each of the last five years, and picked one book from the recommendations for each. In many cases, I haven't loved the read-alike, for reasons I'll go into, but once, just once, a read-alike for a book on one year's Top Ten list made it on to the following year's Top Ten list. So I persist.

Note: The rest of this review has been withheld due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcem
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
Jun 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
In singer/songwriter Josh Ritter's debut novel, grit and beauty come together in paradoxically close proximity.

Set in post-WWI Appalachia, the novel unfolds the implications of war and, perhaps, the mania of PTSD caused by it. The narrator toggles between scenes of the main character, Henry Bright, at war in France and fighting to save his life back in post-bellum America. His life during peacetime is infinitely complicated by three other characters: his newborn baby boy, his vengeful father-in
Christopher Skip 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
Karen Germain
Oct 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 17, 2017 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 01, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Jun 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
I can't ever say anything bad about Josh Ritter. I mean c'mon, he is one of the finest singer-songwriters ever, a genuine and engaging performer, a downright pleasant person to talk to, and then he writes a book that largely takes place in West Virginia (a state I have a strong connection to). You'd almost think he was pandering directly to me.
Long review short, I loved this book.
However, with that said, I had to step back from this book after finishing it to determine, did I enjoy it because it
Kyle Warren
Sep 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 05, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Janet McLarty Fretter
Dec 20, 2011 rated it it was ok
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 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 29, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Nov 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jul 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Singer/songwriter Josh Ritter demonstrates equally fine craftsmanship in writing fiction. This work of historical fiction is set in the early 20th century, in the period before, during, and after WWI. The characters are compelling and well-drawn, the plot carefully managed; and there's a touch of what might seem to be magical realism--or maybe it's not! I thoroughly enjoyed this novel.
Jason Smith
Jul 02, 2011 rated it liked it
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.
Aug 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
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"
Jun 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
I see shades of Charles Frazier (Cold Mountain to be specific) here. 3.5-4 stars. I think Mr. Ritter will only get better.
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50 Books in 2011 ...: Aaron's (51)50 2 9 Sep 21, 2011 06:53AM  

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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
“It was the blue of the sky that caught him first: a rapturous, painfully pure spike of color that hooked his eyes like fish and reeled them upward into the heights.” 5 likes
“At times throughout the night, they seemed to turn from real, living people into mere photographs of people, and then from photographs into memories, which are like photographs, and finally, as the ground blurred beneath them, whatever parts of them that could be seen from afar seemed to float like ghosts in the rippling air as they went about their work.” 1 likes
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