Review: Bridge of Sighs

Bridge of Sighs
By Richard Russo
Publisher: Random House Inc
Pub. Date: September 2007
ISBN-13: 9780375414954
480pp

The blurb from the publisher:

Louis Charles Lynch (also known as Lucy) is sixty years old and has lived in Thomaston, New York, his entire life. He and Sarah, his wife of forty years, are about to embark on a vacation to Italy. Lucy’s oldest friend, once a rival for his wife’s affection, leads a life in Venice far removed from Thomaston. Perhaps for this reason Lucy is writing the story of his town, his family, and his own life that makes up this rich and mesmerizing novel, interspersed with that of the native son who left so long ago and has never looked back.

The Short of It:

A story about love and acceptance and the need for normalcy. This one moves at a much slower pace but has its moments. Those that enjoy books about small town life will enjoy this one.

The Rest of It:

This was my book club’s pick for this month. As a whole, most of the group enjoyed it but felt that it was much too long. At the time of the meeting, I had not finished it and thought that it was “okay” but not great. However, now that I have finished it, I find myself appreciating the story a bit more.

In a nutshell, Lou C. Lynch (Lucy) is a young boy growing up in a small town. He is surrounded by a loving, supportive family but one that has its own challenges for sure. For one, his dad (also named Lou) is a simple guy with simple values. Lucy’s mother, Tessa, is often frustrated with her husband’s “pie in the sky” view of life and is determined that her son not follow in his footsteps.

Although I get Tessa’s frustration, I also get Lou’s eternal optimism. The ability to see good in all situations, and mean it…that’s not a trait that a lot of people share. So when Lucy befriends Bobby Marconi, a rebel of sorts with his own problems, we see his parents react to that friendship in different ways. One wants to protect, yet the other sees nothing but good. Sort of a hard situation when a kid is in the middle of that.

As Lucy gets older, and falls in love with Sarah, it begins to dawn on him that Sarah may not want to spend her life in that town—that she may go away to college and not come back. Add to that the dynamic of Lucy’s friend Bobby, and what you have are three very good friends trying to figure out who they are.

Have you ever chosen comfort over risk? The characters in this novel are constantly questioning whether it’s better to love, or be loved. Is the comfort of family worth more than heading out into the unknown to find out who you really are? I’m not sure I know. I do get the “what if” factor. When you are presented with two choices, and you make your choice, sometimes down the line you ask yourself, “What if…?” To me, this is the main theme of the book. Things change, yet other things remain the same so you ask yourself, “What if?”

Although I agree with my book club that the book should have been trimmed down a bit before publication, I did find myself swept up with the internal conflict within each character. As for the slower pace, I felt that the pace matched that of a small town. It seemed appropriate to me. That said, I was a surprised by the ending. It felt a bit choppy but overall I enjoyed the book.

Russo’s new book, That Old Cape Magic just came out and I may pick it up. From what I’ve read it also focuses on family dynamics and takes place on the Cape, how bad can that be?

Have you read a Russo book? If so, what did you think of it?

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17 thoughts on “Review: Bridge of Sighs”

  1. I've picked it up, I've put it down, I've picked it up, I've put it down. Three stars doesn't really seem worth it. But that cover is so beautiful!

  2. I am glad to read a review of a Russo book. People keep recommending them, and I keep wondering whether I will like them (rather than, say, actually reading one!). So thanks for posting this interesting summary and review!

  3. Russo is one of my favorite authors. I'd place him in the top 3. I've read all his books. I read this last year and, although I don't do starred reviews on the blog as a rule, I gave it 3.5 stars out of 5. Just didn't enjoy it all that much. Still loved his writing but the story didn't grab me. It happens.

  4. This sounds like a good book club choice. I may enjoy this one. Have to put it on the TBR list. thanks for the great review.

  5. I really enjoy Russo's writing but I've seen that this book didn't get raving reviews so I didn't pick it up. I do have Cape Magic though and look forward to reading it. I do love his small town settings though. Usually the book itself is a comfort to read.

  6. I haven't read this and am on the fence about reading it. I did like Russo's writing in Empire Falls although I felt it was a long saga.

  7. I've read and loved all of Russo's books, and this one was no exception. In fact, I loved it so much that I couldn't bring myself to review it for fear that analyzing it might ruin the glow. I just finished That Old Cape Magic yesterday morning (just barely in time to attend his signing in DC last night) and really enjoyed it. It's a bit of a departure for him but still has that trademark Russo humor and beautiful character development. Do pick it up!

  8. I really liked this book and want to read some more of Russo's. Lots of issues presented in this one including moving from one social and economic level to another.

  9. Very good review Ti. Haven't read it but have heard a lot about it. It's funny, but I often think books go a little longer than necessary, I don't know, maybe we're just lazy readers when we think that? The pace of life is so fast, we just want to wrap things up so we can move on to the next thing;)

  10. I've never read any Russo, But I've always wanted to give them a try! Maybe I'll start with Bridge of Sighs, though it's good to know the reservations you had about it. Thanks for the review!

  11. Great review! Russo is one of my favorites. I agree that Bridge of Sighs may have been a little too long, but I still thought it was excellent. I'm half way through That Old Cape Magic now, and loving every page!

  12. Readers of Bridge of Sighs may also find another story about "love and acceptance and the need for normalcy" of considerable interest, that being my recently released biographical novel, Broken Saint. It is based on my forty-year friendship with a gay, bipolar man, and chronicles in great detail the internal and external struggles of his troubled life as he battles for stability and acceptance (of himself and by others). More information on the book is available at http://www.eloquentbooks.com/BrokenSaint.html.

    Mark Zamen, author

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