Hugh Penders has been stuck in neutral for nearly a decade since his brother Chase died in a car accident. He carries with him two secrets that he has never been able to share with anyone: that he believes he might have been able to prevent the accident, and that he was deeply in love with Chase’s girlfriend, Iris.
When Hugh’s father suffers a debilitating heart attack, Hugh must return to the New England home he’s been running away from for the past ten years. One day, he encounters Iris – who has long since moved away – on the street. They begin a friendship and Hugh believes he’s falling in love with Iris all over again.
But the ghost of Chase haunts both of them. And when each reveals a truth the other never knew, their lives, their vision of Chase, and their chances for a future together will change forever.
Charged by the power of desire and the impact of loss, Crossing the Bridge is a soulful, romantic novel that will speak to you deeply.
OPINION: 4 STARS
Reading this book has reminded me why I enjoy adult fiction. In some ways, I could relate to plenty of events in this book while still being swept away and lost in the story. The premise of this novel did grab me- while being a somewhat common overall situation, it was clear from even the summary how Baron intended to make this something all his own. Most notably, this story is set in the perspective of Hugh- a male taking the lead in what ultimately is a romance rather than the female fulfilling this role. Iris does, of course, come in often but even telling things from her side would have left me with an entirely different feeling than from Hugh's.
There were numerous elements that came to play in this story, all weaving together seamlessly and innocently. This is not an action book- it is a story of character development. The reasons Hugh has jumped from town to town and job to job is clear from the start but constantly reiterated and reconfirmed as the tale continues. I could fully understand Hugh's responses for running for the past decade and though now a man in his early thirties, I really appreciated how often he seemed like a man in his early twenties instead. The toll his brother's death took on him was clear and the things he skipped out on and avoided in the decade after did change him and mold him in ways that otherwise would not have happened. The personal growth and development that would come in those ten years from settling into a career, a community, maybe even finding a spouse- none of that happened for Hugh. In that sense, his character hadn't really matured from the college kid who lost his brother and I think this one singular facet was what I appreciated most from this.
The flashbacks and remembrances of Chase intertwined themselves at the right times without a break in the overall flow of the story. Each scene helped build the picture of Chase- show the reader what Hugh did. This wasn't just his brother Hugh lost, but his best friend. The only real issue between them was Hugh's affections towards Chase's girlfriend Iris- and something Hugh tried his best to hide and ignore and it wasn't necessarily mmediately clear if Chase was even cognizant of these feelings. Regardless, Hugh wasn't going to hurt his brother in such a manner but a decade later, those feelings remained. In the same way Hugh ran from Chase's death, he ran from everything with Iris as well. Although the story line of meeting up a decade later after such a terrible even is often used, Baron played his particular idea out quiet beautifully.
In many places, this book was emotional. The sorrow that clung to Hugh almost all the time was tangible- the grief palpable. But those instances where it lifted, where Hugh was able to move forward even slightly, made me want to keep reading as did the moments where he was jerked back into the past and into the constant weight of his brother's absence. While this was not an action, I still kept turning the pages. In many ways throughout the book, it seemed as though Hugh had done nothing but make mistakes since Chase died. This strained many areas of his life until everything culminated at the end. The decisions he made were clear and backed up by events of the story and Hugh's personality.
The push and pull of Hugh and Iris' developing relationship, while sometimes seemed drawn out, was necessary and believable. There was something almost tangible stuck between them- Chase's memory because as they said in the book- Iris would forever be Chase's last girlfriend. Hugh could never look at Iris without thinking of her being with his brother and Iris could in turn never look at Hugh without thinking of his brother. That was the ultimate basis of this book and I was certainly rooting for the pair to find a way around that obstruction.
The ending was peaceful- there was a point where it became clear how things would end but I still enjoyed reading it. This is a feel good novel by the end of it, made unique by the male perspective. If you are ever wondering what a man is thinking, this is the perfect book to read for a glimpse. There are a few burning questions that remain- things brought up in the story related to events with Chase that are never answered- which in some ways does bother me since those are things that helped define many aspects of who he was but at the same time, their actual answer was not vital to the story- only the fact that they happened.
Overall, I give this one 4 stars. With a strong yet developmentally stunted and broken male lead, this book was an interesting read. The story was a nice twist on something oft done. This was a masterpiece in character development stories with just enough intrigue and a few twists and catches to keep you reading without ever feeling like high action additions were vital. From the main characters to the minor ones to the extras, each character served a clear role in this book- they weren't being mentioned just to be there. Baron has done well with this novel and I will certainly be looking forward to more from him in the future.
For more information on The Story Plant or Michael Baron's books please visit their website here.
Note: This book was provided courtesy of The Story Plant Publishers for review. I have received no monetary compensation.