Louis Charles ("Lucy") Lynch has spent all of his 60 years in upstate Thomaston, New York, married to the same woman, Sarah, for 40 of them, with their son now a grown man. Like his late, beloved father, Lucy is an optimist, though he's had plenty of reasons not to be - chief among them his mother, still indomitably alive. Yet it was her shrewdness, combined with that Lynch optimism, that had propelled them years ago to the right side of the tracks and created an "empire" of convenience stores about to be passed on to the next generation.
Lucy and Sarah are also preparing for a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Italy, where his oldest friend, a renowned painter, has exiled himself far from anything they'd known in childhood. In fact, the exact nature of their friendship is one of the many mysteries Lucy hopes to untangle in the "history" he's writing of his hometown and family. And with his story interspersed with that of Noonan, the native son who'd fled so long ago, the destinies building up around both of them (and Sarah, too) are relentless, constantly surprising, and utterly revealing.
©2007 Richard Russo; (P)2007 Random House, Inc. Random House Audio, a division of Random House, Inc.
"Largehearted, vividly populated and filled with life from America's recent, still vanishing past." (Publishers Weekly)
What a book! I've been a Russo fan since "The Risk Pool," and I downloaded "Bridge of Sighs" the day it was released. I took the day off from work and unplugged the phone. When it ended, I started it over again. There is a kindness and insight and depth of understanding to Mr. Russo's writing that makes me weak in the knees. He captures the pathos of the near-miss, and the dignity and indignities required to see through to the end the lives we choose.
Readers/listeners who are familiar with the down-on-their-luck towns of his other books (except "Straight Man," which is a whole other delightful story of its own) will feel as though they've come home again. These new characters, too, are flawed, trying hard, making the best of it, making mistakes, coming together, and falling apart. The plot is textured and complex, spanning generations, continents, and social classes. It is wistful, heartbreaking, sweet, sad, and often funny, and although I missed the wisecracking Sully and his friends (if you haven't yet, get "Nobody's Fool"), these people had distinct voices that were just as affecting and effective.
The narrator is terrific, with a nuanced style that reflects the pain (or joy) of the action and the lyricism of the prose.
I've been a member of Audible since 2001 and have heard a lot of wonderful books and this was one of the very best! I loved the length of the book and the depth that Russo developed the characters. None of the characters were totally good or evil- just like real people. One thing I really liked was the insight he had in the understanding of the characters as they aged and developed. The different stories came together to keep the book interesting. I hope it doesn't take years for Russo to write another. However long it takes, it will be worth it.
I must confess I spent the first few hours wishing Ron McLarty was narrating this book because I enjoyed him so much in Nobody's Fool and The Memory of Running. But by the end of the novel I found Arthur Morey to an excellent choice.
The book does start out slow but if you have read Richard Russo before, you have confidence the gems are there. This book delivers. A story of ordinary extraordinary people lovingly told. If you enjoy a story with people you can relate to and care about you will enjoy and be enriched by the Bridge of Sighs.
Empire Falls was better, but this still stands head above most other books. How a 27 hour book can have no wasted words is huge. Loved the story and the characters.
Narration was a bit sticky at first for me especially on the heals of Empire Falls narration but by hour three, when things really began to take off, it was spot on.
I was a high school history teacher and a physician assistant-retired.
Like the condemned Venetians who sighed as they crossed the bridge from condemnation to execution, this novel portends ill for each of its characters. The story revolves around three children coming of age together in a small town that is oblivious of it's own fate. The river has been polluted by the tannery and the community is crossing over from a well-oiled manufacturing town to the rust belt. The characters, like the town, make wrong decisions, but they muddle on in their myopic hope that things will get better.
I fell in love with the people because they had roots in the town and in their family. I rooted for them to find happiness and they did. None of them got exactly what they wanted, but they lived interesting and rewarding lives and made the best of what what life gave.
The story captures real people who were judged unworthy by fate to live out their dreams, but unlike the hopeless Venetians, their sighs were more of exasperation than hopelessness.
This book will keep you involved to the end.
I normally like Richard Russo's writing, but this book, read at the tedious pace that it was, has me pulling my hair out! It would seem to me he could have used an more ruthless editor. I finally gave up.
I loved this book ...even though the beginning was slow, I really got into the characters and their world and just didn't want it to end.
I too wanted to be in Ikey Rubin's shop, being spoilt by Big Lou and his wife; I too fell in love with Bobby...oh Bobby.
The narrator did a fine job with the different characters' voices. At first I found his pace slow; but I came to realize that this pace fitted in perfectly with the main "teller" of the story, Lucy (Lou C. Lynch)who himself was rather slow and ponderous in everything he did.
If you're a fan of fast paced dramas with a gripping, detailed storyline then this probably isn't the right book for you. But if you like a novel with excellent characterizations that makes you think about life and love and engrosses you in an imaginary world and it's people, then you should thoroughly enjoy this.
I wish there were a way to give 4.5 stars to a book, for though I enjoyed this book tremendously, I would not say it achieves the highest level of literature. Nor, necessarily is that what it intends to do. Russo does not batter the reader over the head with his talent. He simply lets it unfold through his characters. And it is Russo's characterizations that are his strength. In Bridge of Sighs they are stronger than ever (stronger even than his Pulitzer Prize winning "Empire Falls" from 2002).
The lives of a handful of individuals from a factory-class Upstate New York town are both nuanced and elaborate. Each character is so rich, so full of faults and strengths, kindness and selfishness, that the town - divided into it's sectors of poor and middle class - seems to slowly become palpable as we get more and more familiar with its houses, stores and streets.
Russo's true gift is to underscore, without much action or special plot, the tumultuous inner lives of everyday people. Childhood, family, relationships (both young and old - casual and passionate), mean different things to people who are co-existing within them. Russo let's these contradicting expectations collide to a remarkabale and realistic effect. The story moves from past to present and from New York State to Venice (mostly New York) each shift in time and place letting the reader in a little further until we fully understand these multi-dimensional people.
This is a long, satisfying, big American book that communicates its purpose with clarity and precision, The book expands and digresses but there are no wasted words - by the last 1/3 it feels like every little detail is vital. The narration is very good and the writing is intelligent, serene and at times enlightening. I have read three Russo novels and this one is my favorite.
The narrator's pace takes a while to get used to, but ultimately helps to draw the pictures of Lucy's life, and becomes convincing as the voice of Lucy. Wonderfully written descriptive prose in true Russo style. I loved listening to this story! If you like Richard Russo, you'll like this book!
I've listened to Empire Falls, Nobody's Fool and Bridge of Sighs and I loved each one of them. John Irving used to be my favorite for this genre of novel, but Russo has nudged him aside. Until someone else comes along, Russo is the best at revealing human nature in such a creative, unexpected, close to the bone, sad, serious, humourous, and relateable way. For more on Richard Russo read my review of Empire Falls.
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