I don’t normally post blurbs, but this time I will:
Henry meets Christa on the west tower of the Brooklyn Bridge, just as they’re both about to jump off and kill themselves. Despite his paralyzing depression–and her panic over a second bout of cancer–they can’t go through with their plans knowing that the other is going to die. So they make a pact–they’ll stay alive for 24 hours, and try to convince each other to live.
From the Staten Island Ferry to Chinatown to the Museum of Modern Art–Henry and Christa embark on a New York City odyssey that exposes the darkest moments of their lives. Is it too late for them? Or will love give them the courage to face the terrifying possibility of hope?
I read this because Cecilia Grant picked it as one of her top romances of 2013. I would not normally have picked up a book with this premise but I think I am glad I did. It’s a tough book to read – none of your romantic fluff here – but worth it. These kinds of people don’t often get talked about in romance novels, for obvious reasons, but Maher makes it work.
Author: Rebecca Rogers Maher
Publisher: Promised Land Books
It’s a good cover that accurately reflects the tone and content of the story.
Hero: Henry. He is not a hero, but he is the male protagonist of a romance novel and that’s the convention. He’s suffered from depression since his early teens. This is not his first serious suicide attempt. He comes from a wealthy family and his closest relationship was with his nanny. He’s good at his job, he’s good-looking, he’s got everything he could want. He hates life. He hates the world. He hates the depression. The portrayal of Henry’s mental illness absolutely rang true for me. I haven’t ever reached Henry’s suicidal depths, but I have had depression and I recognised some of Henry’s suffering in my own.
Heroine: Christa. I think she is a heroine, actually, as well as by the romance convention. Christa had none of the privileges that Henry grew up with. An addict mother, an absent father, a husband who left her, and now a sister who followed in her mother’s footsteps, Christa is alone in life. Sure, she has friends but she feels she’s used up the support they can offer her the first time she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Right now, she’s got no one.
Other: Not really.
Marriage: Not even close. The ending is about as optimistic as you could realistically imagine given the set up of this book, but it’s clear that this is only the beginning. It’s more about the future being a possibility than about determining what the future will look like.
Enjoyment factor: I was nervous about reading this because of the subject matter and I can’t honestly say that I enjoyed it. But it was compelling and I cared enormously about both Henry and Christa. I wanted them both to find a reason to live and as the book went on I wanted them to see that they could each find that reason in the other. I would certainly recommend this book to others.
The other thing I was thinking about while I read this was a tedious piece of commentary on the romance genre that I read recently which, among other things, was trying to draw comparisons between Ian McEwan’s Atonement and romance novels. The Bridge reminded me of a different McEwan book, Saturday. Both books take place over the course of a life-altering 24 hours. Both have a strong sense of place, being precisely located in large cities. Both discuss issues of coincidence, fate or divine providence. Saturday isn’t a romance novel (by any definition), it’s a much longer book, and it has different goals. The Bridge is a romance novella and as such it works. I was invested in the relationship between Christa and Hugh from the start and was glad to see them come to the resolution they find at the end. But I think it would be possible to read The Bridge as literary fiction too. It’s an exploration of what drives people to end their own lives and what can make it possible to draw back, and on that level, I think it holds up pretty well against the McEwan.