Thursday, March 30, 2017

A Bridge Across the Ocean

Title:  A Bridge Across the Ocean
Author:  Susan Meissner
Publication Information:  Berkley. 2017. 384 pages.
ISBN:  045147600X / 978-0451476005

Book Source:  I received this book through the Penguin First to Read program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "The afternoon sun lies low and sweet among the clouds that hug the harbor, bathing the promenade deck in shimmering half-light."

Favorite Quote:  "It is complicated fighting for freedom and justice, but necessary if they were to hold on to what made them human and not beast."

This book follows a commonly used structure to tell the story in two time periods. A character and story exist in the the present. A character and story exist in the past. There is a link between the two. In alternating sections, the book tells both story, drawing them together into a conclusions. In some books, this structure works very well. In some, it does not. In most, I find myself more drawn to one character, story, and time period. The key to my enjoyment of the book most often lies in how well the two stories come together to form a cohesive whole. The drama and the mystery of these books often lies in the connection between the past and the present.

In this book, the present story is that of Brette Caslake. She lives an every day life of home, work, husband, and family. However, one extraordinary ability makes her feel different and often alone. She has the ability to see and talk to ghosts. This ability has literally haunted her from childhood, and she has spent her life trying to hide it and to escape it. However, it continues to influence every decision she makes. A request from an old friend brings her to the ship Queen Mary docked in Long Beach, California. It also brings her face to face with her ability again and makes her think that perhaps she needs a different approach. This chance encounter becomes the connection in this book to the story of the past.

The story of the past is that of Simone Deveraux, Annaliese Kurtz, and of World War II. Simone Deveraux is a child of the French Resistance, and Annaliese Kurtz is the wife of a Nazi officer. Both have indescribable horrors that they look to escape. They come to the Queen Mary for passage to the United States as war brides. Their lives overlap and takes a turn that neither could have imagined.

The book goes back and forth between the three women. Brett's story is about coming to terms with who she is. Simone's story is of survival. Annaliese's story is one of escape. Of the two time periods, the story of the past is definitely the more compelling one. Of the three characters, Simone is the most compelling.

What does not really work in this book is the connection between past and present. An attempt is made to create a metaphorical correlation. "The are afraid of what they can't see, just like us. It's as if there's a bridge they need to cross. And it's like crossing over the ocean, Brette. They can't see the other side. So, they are afraid to cross." Unfortunately, for me, the connection is lost. Brett's story and the story of her ghosts goes in a direction so far as to become unbelievable. The contrast between the stark, factual reality of the war story and the supernatural story of the present makes that feeling even stronger. The ending to Brett's story is also completely unexpected, as in it is somewhat unrelated to the actual story. The ending and the connection between past and present seems almost tangential by the end. In this story of two times, the story of the past clearly wins out in terms of characters and plot.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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