REVIEW: The Bridge by Rebecca Rogers Maher
“Henry meets Christa on the west tower of the Brooklyn Bridge, just as they’re both about to jump off and kill themselves. Despite his paralyzing depression—and her panic over a second bout of cancer—they can’t go through with their plans knowing that the other is going to die. So they make a pact—they’ll stay alive for 24 hours, and try to convince each other to live.
From the Staten Island Ferry to Chinatown to the Museum of Modern Art—Henry and Christa embark on a New York City odyssey that exposes the darkest moments of their lives. Is it too late for them? Or will love give them the courage to face the terrifying possibility of hope?”
Dear Ms. Maher,
When Jane sent me the email with the blurb of your newest novella I told her, something like, “That’s just different enough that I’m interested in trying it.” I mean I honestly can’t think of another romance story that starts with a duel/dual suicide gone wrong. Maybe that’s not the response that every author dreams of but it got me to read the book, right? I mean no disrespect to anyone going through the mental and physical pain these two characters have to deal with but the set up of the story is truly unique.From the beginning the story takes on a grim humor that had me laughing. Christa and Henry have both chosen the same early morning time and place to jump to their deaths off the Brooklyn Bridge. They’ve even thought about which side would be better to jump from – as they discuss later in an almost surreal scene while they eat ice cream – and come complete in black clothes so as to be less visible and thus stoppable. When what they think will be a private last moment is abruptly squashed by the presence of the other, annoyance is the emotion that quickly surfaces.
“What the hell are you doing up here?”
Of all the things she could have said, this is not what I expected. She looked fragile a minute ago, delicate. I’d feared scaring her.
But I’m the one who shrinks back now.
I could say the same thing, after all. I want to say the same thing. What the hell are you doing up here ruining my perfectly good suicide attempt? Was there a sign-up sheet or something that I didn’t know about? Or more succinctly: Get out of my way. But there are some rules of civilization you can’t flout, even in extremis. A question is asked; you must answer it. Not to do so would be rude, and I’m not a rude person. Even when being yelled at by a stranger.
But they’re basically good people and what quickly follows – once they both acknowledge that the moment to jump is past for the morning – is the desire to help the other. To show him/her that s/he does have something to live for. To save the other as his/her last good deed on earth. Over an early morning breakfast they make their bargain. Each has three things they will do together over the coming 24 hours and maybe, though neither plans to change his/her mind, the other will have a change of heart.
Christa and Henry both have eminently – I hesitate to use the word – good reasons for why they plan to commit suicide. Perhaps understandable is a better choice. He’s lived with a lifelong depression while she’s facing a second diagnosis of breast cancer. Once the other is told what is behind these choices, Christa and Henry both fight each other’s decision.
Readers will have to decide how to view Christa and Henry’s backgrounds and choices but you do a good job in presenting them without judgment and describing what might be incomprehensible to anyone who’s never faced what they do. Henry is exhausted by living in a tornado of mental pain and despair while Christa views facing another round of debilitating chemo treatments, with the very real possibility of dying anyway, as an endless desert to cross with no water or help in sight.
While Christa and Henry might not totally understand each other’s reasons, and their discussions do lead to arguments about whether or not those should lead to the finality of suicide, they do understand each other’s pain. Finding someone who does that without then resorting to pat “feel good” answers or knee-jerk reactions begins to build links between them that leads to feelings each doesn’t particularly want. An awakening of emotions – including pain – like raw nerve endings suddenly stimulated. They both thought they were numb to this but discover differently.
I like that punches aren’t pulled. Christa and Henry are honest about why they ended up on that bridge. Some readers will understand and some probably won’t. Their issues aren’t made light of and are still there when the book ends. The things they didn’t want to face still exist and just maybe those things will win in the end. Who knows? But for now, they’ve found each other, hope and a new will to try again. And I’ll say that I appreciate this unique book that presents characters with bone deep issues that can’t be solved by a quick conversation or better communication. B+
My goodness. That premise hits . . . unnervingly close to home, for reasons I’ll just slide past here. Very interested in seeing how this author handles her premise with grim humour and no pulled punches. I’m coming to the end of another book with an unusual pairing: Set This House in Order by Matt Ruff, about two people who at least think they have multiple personality disorder–controversial as that diagnosis is–and it’s not technically romance, but sort of it is. I’ve been tiptoeing to the end of it, not wanting it to be over. I can see this is going to be the next book on the roster, so I can finally bring myself to finish the Ruff book.
ETA: Aw, I misread where you’d said it’s a novella. I was hoping for something longer, but I’m still going to read it.
@Carolyne: I’d say it’s a longer novella. I can’t find a word count anywhere but Amazon lists it as 79 pages which is about what it came to on my Sony reader. It’s also $1.99 there.
@Jayne: I bought it a little earlier at Kobo and Calibre shows the word count at 30,326.
@Loosheesh: Thanks. I need to try to include word count/page counts for novella reviews.
I read this recently and really enjoyed it. The length felt right to me, because the story is so tightly focused on the reality of their situation and impending suicides that a longer length I think would just make it dreary. As it was, I found it compelling and poignant and very real. Their HEA felt satisfying, but also uncertain, which I think, considering their lives, is appropriate.
Great review. This sounds so different that I have to read it. I’ve bought it already, but if I hadn’t, your review would have sold me on it.
I’ve been meaning to try RRM for a while now, since her guest post here. I even own one of her books – I got it on sale but haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. Thanks for reviewing this one. It’s an interesting set up.
I didn’t mention – and probably should have – that the six items on their agenda take them to various parts of NYC which residents and fans might have fun reading about.
I read this book and it’s my favorite book from Rebecca. She’s like no other romance writer I’ve read. Her books aren’t sugar and spice and everything nice. They’re REAL and honest. From the three I’ve read things society doesn’t want to talk about.
I want to read this book SO BAD — it pushes all of my buttons.
Alas, I am also terrified to read this book; it also cuts so close to the bone in so many ways.
Maybe I’ll order it and save it for some time I am feeling extra strong…
@Carolyne: Agree, ‘Set this house in order’ is a fantastic book.
@hapax: Maybe try the sample and see if it seems thoughtful? You can always stop when you reach the end if you don’t feel up to reading the rest.