Thursday, September 30, 2010

Alice's Review: The Last Bridge

The Last Bridge: A Novel (Random House Reader's Circle)Summary: Coyne's compelling debut shines an unnerving light on the fallout from a childhood rooted in abuse. Alexandra Cat Rucker, an alcoholic strip club cocktail waitress, returns to her childhood home after her mother kills herself. She's been gone 10 years and is now uncomfortable around her brother, Jared, and sister, Wendy; while confronting her past, she also tries to discern the meaning of her mother's suicide note: He isn't who you think he is. Alternating between the complicated present and the horrific past, Coyne portrays the myriad ways family members cope with abuse. Cat's mother lived in a world of her own; Cat, the oldest, bore the brunt of her father's attacks; Jared buried himself in school sports, occasionally coming to his sister's defense when it was safe to do so; and Wendy focused on being the perfect daughter. Then there's Addison Watkins, the son of a family friend who at once offered a haven and a challenge to teenage Cat. Though the occasional one-liners distract rather than enhance, Coyne's prose effortlessly carries the reader through a thorny history and into possible redemption. Publishers Weekly

Review:  I have been looking forward to reading this book since Julie's review a few months back.  As always, I'm not quite sure where to begin.  To me The Last Bridgeis a mystery more than anything else  that reads a lot like a memoir.  It is told by Cat, an alcoholic trying to forget her past, as she tries to decipher what her mother's cryptic suicide note means.

This book was a hard one to read, not in prose but in subject matter.  It deals with physical and sexual abuse by a parent.  Ms. Coyne did a fantastic job of writing this story from the abused's point of view.  Cat was truly amazing to know.  She started out as a wary teenage, constantly hiding from her abusive father.  She experiences love in the form of a slightly older family friend who comes to stay with her family.  Her only protector is her older brother Jared.  Her sister, for all intents and purposes, is pretty useless to her.  Although her mother tries to do what she can to help her, I couldn't help but feel that as long as it was Cat getting the abuse and not her, she was totally fine with that. 

And then it happens, that one thing that Cat can't hide from.  That one thing that completely destroys her life. And gone is the teenager and in her place is a scared woman whose only way of coping with her past is to drown it in a bottle of booze. 

This novel is incredible on all accounts.  I loved the memoir feel to it.  After I was finished reading it, I wanted to go online and google Cat.  I wanted to know what she was up to, if she was able to change her life for the long haul.  I wanted to know if she kept in touch with Jared, if she found her happy ending with Addison.  I lost count of how many times I told myself she wasn't real, that she was just a character made up by a woman with an incredible gift.  And what a gift Ms. Coyne has.  She writes in a way that you can't take you eyes off the page.  You want to know what happens next. 

I definitely recommend this novel to anyone who has the courage to look inside the broken.  Who is not afraid of the truth, no matter how startling it may be.  I usually include a quote from the novel in my review.  There are many to choose from in this book, but I think the one the author herself picks says it best...

What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life?  The world would split open. - Muriel Rekeyser.

And what a truth it is. 

Final Take:  4/5



Brianna October 1, 2010 at 9:42 AM  

This book sounds good,it sounds bad to say that I enjoy stories about abuse an acoholism,but I do. Your review is great! I'm adding this to my to read list!

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