Sunday, March 18, 2012

Not as Bright as I had hoped...

Bright's Passage, songwriter Josh Ritter's first novel, is a book that I wanted to love. As always, with high expectations comes a greater chance of disappointment. So with a heavy heart I report that I did not fall in love with Bright's Passage. That said, the book is well written, but unfortunately does not overcome a cumbersome storyline.

The novel follows the story of Henry Bright, a young WWI veteran, and his travails following the death of his wife during childbirth. The misdirection in the plot comes to the fore when we learn that Henry is communicating with an angel who has manifested itself as a horse. What are we to make of the communication between the two? Is Henry simply hallucinating? Is he experiencing true divine intervention?

The ambiguity surrounding that question is the real stumbling block of the novel. The horse/angel device proved to be distracting at best and left me disconnected from the main character. It must be noted, I had great difficulty not picturing Josh Ritter himself as Henry Bright, but that is my issue not that of the author.

Plot aside, the book is beautifully written with long, descriptive passages that harken back to many of Ritter's best songs. Indeed, much of Ritter's music is closely aligned with a storytelling sensibility. Take a listen to "Temptation of Adam" or "The Curse" to get an idea.

The saga of Henry Bright would work perfectly as a song, but the story, when fleshed out to the length of a novel, loses the punch that makes Ritter's music uniquely satisfying.

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