“Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”
-It’s A Wonderful Life (1948)
In many ways, the premise of The Bridge by Karen Kingsbury is that of the 1948 movie It’s A Wonderful Life. There is a man down on his luck who believes that if he were just to end it all, it would better for everyone in his life. Of course, what he doesn’t realize is the impact that he has on the people around him, and how they would be lost without him. The Bridge doesn’t take entirely the same route of It’s A Wonderful Life because the main character does not travel into his past, and witness the influence that he has had on people but instead that influence is felt and shown through out the book by the actions of other people.
The main character of The Bridge is a man named Charlie. Charlie and his wife Donna have run a local bookstore called The Bridge for the majority of their lives. Together, in the middle of Tennessee, they have provided people with coffee, conversation, and shelves of books. But in May, a horrible flood swept through the area, and destroyed nearly every book in the store, and now the bank wants to pull the lease on The Bridge. Despondent, Charlie considers the unthinkable but before he can, tragedy strikes, and right before his eyes, everything changes.
The Bridge is a very simple novel but it has three very long lasting messages. The first message, of course, is the message of the influence that a person may have on another without even realizing it. After tragedy strikes, people from all over come to the aid of Charlie and his wife, expressing how much they mean to them, and how much of an impact they and their store have had. The prominent example of this comes from two characters by the names of Molly and Ryan. Molly and Ryan were best friends while in college, and although they both had strong feelings for each other, they never fully acted on them due to outstanding circumstances. Both Molly and Ryan credit The Bridge for bringing them together as it was where they spent most of their time together, and together they work out a plan to help out Charlie and Donna in any way that they can. Oh, and their story also ties into the second message of the story: second chances.
Second chances, and miracles are a strong them within this story, especially since it is being told around the Christmas season. I should mention that it is also filled with references to Christianity, and the belief in God. I didn’t mind these references because I felt that it added to the story instead of taking away from it. However, it may not be for everyone. Anyway, as I stated before the motif of second chances and miracles is very strong in the story especially in reference to Charlie and Donna, The Bridge, and Molly and Ryan. Although simplistic, it was nicely written, and at times made me think about what I would do I was given a second chance to redo something, or change something in my life.
The third message which I felt that The Bridge contained is a message about the importance of reading (in particular reading physical copies of books) and of supporting your local independent bookstores. There is a quote from the beginning of the book that really tore at my heart strings, and actually made me stop and think for a minute:
“People rallying around a bookstore? Things like that only happened in the movies. If The Bridge closed, people wouldn’t notice. They would move on and find their books somewhere else, same as any other city in America that lost a bookstore this year. They’d jump on Amazon, or get a Kindle for Christmas, and Franklin would go on as if nothing had happened. And that would be that. Charlie Barton and The Bridge, and anything wonderful that happened here forever drowned in the flood.” (p. 32-33 ARC)
My local bookstore closed earlier this year because the owner wanted to move onto a different phase in her life, and although I was upset, and so were a lot of other people, nobody raced to save the store. Now the location of the store has been changed into a pizza place, and it is still strange for me to walk in the doors, and know the difference. I know that I couldn’t have done anything to save the store but it was still sad to lose it. And it is already as if my hometown has already forgotten all about it. Protecting local independent bookstores is a wonderful message to promote, and it falls right in line with the other messages that The Bridge has within its pages making it a perfectly heartwarming book for the holiday season.
Disclosure: Received an advance copy at BEA
Other Reviews of The Bridge by Karen Kingsbury:
Stories from my Bookshelf: “This book would be the best bookish Christmas present I could receive this year.”
2 Gliterary Girls: “All in all, I do not recommend this book whatsoever unless you don’t have a great attention span because this book is extremely basic without any surprises and is a quick read because of its lack of depth.”
The Friendly Book Nook: “It’s a Wonderful Life – move over. We now have vintage Karen Kingsbury’s The Bridge.”