Bright's Passage: A Novel

Registered by Karenlea of Glendale, California USA on 10/14/2011
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Journal Entry 1 by Karenlea from Glendale, California USA on Friday, October 14, 2011
I am a huge fan of Josh Ritter’s music and was very excited to read his first novel, “Bright’s Passage.” I am in awe of Ritter’s talent for writing lyrics, that I set the bar high for this book. I think the book was great on many levels, but it took a long time to grab my attention. I read the first half of the book in small chunks, a few chapters at a time, as it failed to grab me. I read the second half this evening and the last part of the book made me appreciate the foundation built in the first half.
Ritter picked the perfect way to have the story unfold. He writes very short chapters that alternate between three different time periods and two different sets of characters. The protagonist is Henry Bright, a very muddled man who has returned home to West Virginia after fighting in WW1. Henry is plagued by his uncle/father-in-law, who is seeking revenge. Elements of the story made me think of Shakespeare, specifically “Titus Andronicus” or maybe Cormac McCarthy’s “No Country for Old Men”.
The main theme of the story is faith. Henry is followed by an angel who alternates between saving his life and making demands. His faith is tested over and over again. However, it is never clear if the angel is a real thing or maybe the creation of a very confused man. Henry has PTSD from incidents before the war and it is only magnified when in the battlefield. In the end, I don’t think it matters if the angel is real or not. Assuming the angel is not real, then Henry is still having his faith tested, but it turns to his faith that he has with following his own gut.
I liked how Ritter set the stakes high between Henry and the Colonel and as their most dramatic moments are being played out a majority of the town is oblivious. It was creepy giving a feeling that unsuspecting victims could be caught up in the crossfire. I liked how this juxtaposed with the other two sections of the book..child abuse taking place and no one intervening and then the war, where people are living their lives back at home, safe. Henry’s life has never been safe, he is always in peril.
The primary reason to read this book is Ritter’s beautiful way with words. He is a gifted writer, where it be songs or novels.

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