Review – Eleanor Bell

January 30th, 2010

Robert Lawson’s metaphoric “bridge” spans a variety of spaces: in time, in geography, and in emotional and intellectual growth. The characters’ dreams progress from an early, vague incoherence to a later maturity forged by disappointments and victories that define ultimate acceptance. In other words, the characters grow up, largely because they rise above the conflicts—internal and external—that at times disrupt their lives.

Each of the complex characters is well drawn and each remains true to character throughout the story. Jack (the narrator) and Betty, Henry and Shoko (Jack’s hosts and listeners who also remember and occasionally contribute to the narrative), Christine and Laura, and the legendary countess. Other lives, too, are woven into the reminiscence. Lawson has managed to avoid the confusion that could have resulted as the mostly retrospective narrative is often interspersed with contemporary comments as the story moves toward its “here and now” conclusion.

Readers who cross these complex bridges can pick up bits of Lawson’s extensive knowledge of Japanese literature and culture, as well as insights into some of the old favorites in English and American literature and theater. Along the way, they’ll observe the metamorphoses of people from mostly modest backgrounds—with the exception of the indomitable countess—whose victories and defeats serve as tools that help them refine their characters.

Lawson (a master of the sonnet) has written an introductory sonnet for each chapter, a delightful bonus for readers who like poetry. They aren’t critical to the story line, but they provide a unique panache.

Once you set foot on this bridge, you’ll be drawn forward, one step at a time, challenged to compare your own experiences with those of the characters. Who knows? Maybe you’ll even clarify your own dreams a bit.

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