OH, what a great book to start the year. Exactly what fiction should do: explore the details of a made up life to let us see what is in our real life.
My favorite quote from the book is currently my e-mail signature
This is a book about divisions and how those divisions are crossed. It’s about innocence and realism. The book is set in a small New England town where an old mill used to be the center of economic activity but is now closed (ah, typical Russo!). The town is divided into East and West with Division street the boundary. The protagonist, Lou, starts life on 1 side of town and ends up moving to the other side. The book unfolds as Lou is writing an autobiography; although there are 3rd person narratives of some of the other key players. The central event of Lou’s life was when he was a kid and a group of bullies locked him in an old chest near a river (after he crossed a bridge). He ended up having the first of many spells where he just drifts away and is lost for a while.
There are just so many conflicts and tensions in this book; not all are resolved. The recurring motif of divisions and bridges really interested me. One of the key physical divisions is in an old park that has a wrought iron fence running around it. Lou spends many days with the caretaker of the park painting and keeping the fence in good shape.
Another central tension is innocence v. experience. Lou’s dad (Big Lou) is a true innocent and just doesn’t see the bad in people and can’t figure out why bad things happen. Lou’s mother is much more experienced and spends much of her life trying to navigate their lives through the reality of life. Lots of problems and challenges. Lou ends up being more like his dad than his mom.
Lou’s best childhood friendship is also problematic and plays itself out through the entire book.
This is definitely 4.5 stars.
Rating: ★★★★★ 5 out of 5 stars. (1/13/21 – Rounded up to 5 stars)
As I re-read my notes here it is apparent I need to work on my writing skills. I hope a little practice and writing up my notes soon after I read the book will help.