February 7, 2019

Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak

Matthew Dunbar is pecking away on an old Remington typewriter to tell the story of his brother Clay. The story comes out as jumbled memories, with no time continuity, that ultimately goes beyond his brother Clay and becomes a sweeping saga of the Dunbar Family. There are five Dunbar boys, Matthew, the narrator, Rory, Henry, Clay, and Tommy. The boys live by themselves in a house on Archer Street. Their father, who abandoned them, is thought of as The Murderer, because the boys feel he took their lives when he left.  He suddenly reappears, and is greeted with hurt and anger. Their father lives several hours away in the country, and has come back to ask his boys to help him construct a bridge. All his sons refuse, except one, the one that said "Hi, Dad." That one is Clay. Clay leaves his brothers, with much resentment on their part, to help his father build a bridge. A bridge that ultimately becomes a metaphor for the bridge that brings the Dunbar family back together. The story beautifully unfolds revealing the back stories of their father, Michael, their mother Penny, and of Clay. This is a story of warmth, love, family and extreme grief.

I will not lie, this is a difficult book. The story jumps time and place; there is no continuity. Parts drag on with horse racing details that add little to the story's progression. Yet it's a story that is so poetic, told with such love, that I couldn't help but embrace it and read with tears often streaming. I well up just writing about it. This book will be with me for a very long time.

Bridge of Clay  is really an adult book. While marketed as YA in the U.S., it is considered adult elsewhere. For mature high school readers and beyond. The story's value is in the way these five brothers hold together, overcome their hardships and grief, and how the strength of family provides a bond that can't be broken.
Mark's Book Picks Score: 5

Reading Level: 5.3 • Interest Level: 9-12 • AR Points: 19 • Lexile: HL650L 
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf • 537 Pages • Copyright: 2018 • ISBN: 978-1-9848301-5-9 • Available in Perma-Bound binding.

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