Louis Charles (Lucy) Lynch has spent all his sixty years in upstate Thomaston, New York, married to the same woman, Sarah, for forty of them, their son now a grown man. Like his late, beloved father, Lucy is an optimist, though hes had plenty of reasons not to bechief 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 theyd known in childhood. In fact, the exact nature of their friendship is one of the many mysteries Lucy hopes to untangle in the history hes writing of his hometown and family. And with his story interspersed with that of Noonan, the native son whod fled so long ago, the destinies building up around both of them (and Sarah, too) are relentless, constantly surprising, and utterly revealing.
Bridge of Sighs is classic Russo, coursing with small-town rhythms and the claims of family, yet it is brilliantly enlarged by an expatriate whose motivations and experiencesoften contrary, sometimes notprove every bit as mesmerizing as they resonate through these richly different lives. Here is a town, as well as a world, defined by magnificent and nearly devastating contradictions.
Bridge of Sighs is captivating for its loving attention to the town of Thomaston and the particularities of its downtrodden residents, but even the most innocuous detail maps a world much larger than Thomaston, a generous world that, by the end of the book, comes to seem so familiar, one is loathe to leave it. (Reviewed by Amy Reading).
Esquire - Corey Sobel
Those familiar with Russo will find his formidable abilities to tease out the nuances of complacency and failure in small-town America intact, though obscured. But someone who's new to Russo might find Bridge of Sighs overlong and overwrought, and will run the risk of turning themselves off from a writer who is capable of much better.
Entertainment Weekly - Jennifer Reese
Russo doesn't handle his thematic material with subtlety. Everyone in the sizable cast, both cynics and sentimentalists, eventually lines up on one side of his binary equation. But Russo writes about these characters — their fistfights, bar nights, secret kisses, self-delusions — with such warmth that, whether it turns out to be a hellhole or heaven on earth, you're grateful to be back on his turf. B+
Houston Chronicle - William J. Cobb
Ambitious and eloquent, Bridge of Sighs is not without its flaws. The large cast of characters seems erratic now and then, their behavior forced rather than natural ... Expansive is good, but at 528 pages this book has a weight problem. At times it sprawls like a heavy uncle stuffed at Thanksgiving, falling asleep in front of the TV.
The Washington Post - Ron Charles
[I]n the course of this enormous and enormously moving novel, I was continually seduced by Russo's insight and gentle humor, his ability to discern the ways we love and frustrate each other.
The New York Times - Janet Maslin
In the midst of...small matters, the big contours of Bridge of Sighs emerge. They are richly evocative and beautifully wrought, delivered with deceptive ease. Another of Mr. Russo's hallmarks is that wonderfully unfashionable gift for effortless storytelling on a sweeping, multigenerational scale.
The Boston Globe - Mameve Medwed
Whatever the scale of their lives, Russo's characters - the stars and the walk-ons - are gorgeously drawn. The writing is always in service of illuminating them - with one exception. The black characters speak in a corny-sounding dialect, which can make the reader stop to decode sentences. In this case, the reach for authenticity doesn't work. But everything else works brilliantly ... From its lovely beginning to its exquisite, perfect end, Russo has written a masterpiece. Blame love, indeed.
San-Diego Union Tribune - Gordon Hauptfleisch
in his rewarding sixth novel, the absorbing, bittersweet and multifaceted Bridge of Sighs, gives as much vent to a sense of place as he does to descriptive character and “class stuff.”
Signature Review by Jeffrey Frank. Bridge of Sighs, on every page, is largehearted, vividly populated and filled with life from America's recent, still vanishing past.
From the first page, when narrator Lou C. "Lucy" Lynch begins to speak, readers will be drawn so completely into Russo's world that putting the book down each time feels like a shock.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by SAM Small Town Syndrome The book is 500+ pages so there's plenty to say and a lot of story lines, characters and techniques upon which to comment. It can't all be done here.
While the book is peopled with a large enough cast of characters, the topic du jour is small... Read More
Rated of 5
by Sally Brown Too long I've read all of Russo's books. I graduated from Nathan Littauer Nursing School in 1952 so these people are well known to me. It was 150 pages too long. Where are the editors? Four of the highly publicized,prize winning books that I want to read... Read More
Louis Menand in the
points out that Bridge of Sighs is structured like Joyce's Ulysses.
Lucy Lynch is Leopold Bloom's counterpart, "canny and naïve in equal parts,
a plodder and a dreamer." Sarah resembles Molly Bloom, "the clever and
worldly wife" who outstrips her husband. Noonan is like Stephen Dedalus,
"the angry boy who flies by the nets, going into exile and becoming an
artist." Thomaston, then, is Russo's Dublin, as if he is elevating the
blighted American small town as a subject worthy of highbrow literature.
Richard Russo grew up in Gloversville, a factory town in upstate New
York whose tannery made gloves (of course) from the nineteenth century until
the middle of the twentieth century when production moved overseas. Russo
has made a distinguished literary career from his depictions of such towns,
stemming from his personal experience. Though the struggles that each town
faces are differentacademic foibles in a college town in Pennsylvania in...
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