Wednesday 9 October 2013

Bridge of Sand by Janet Burroway

Dana, the widow of a Pennsylvania senator, buries her husband on the morning of 9/11 not far from the site of the United 93 crash. Shocked by this grim synchronicity, she finally pulls herself together and heads south to pick up the lost strands of her youth. She reconnects with Cassius Huston, who is black, and is separated from his raging wife but devoted to his three-year-old daughter. Tentative at first, and taken by surprise, Dana and Cassius fall in love. When Dana is threatened by Cassius' family, she flees to the Gulf Coast, to the fishing village of Pelican Bay, to wait for him. She is soon drawn intimately into the life of the small town, with its invisible divide between black and white. She considers herself post-racial. But what does that mean for a bi-racial couple on the rural coast of Florida in the twenty-first century American South? How much heavy history persists, unacknowledged and internalized? This beautifully written novel of love, race, territory and renewal explores the issues that challenge us all.

The writing style of this book is a little more high brow than what I have been used to reading lately, so it required a little more of my concentration than usual. That said when I was not distracted by goings on around me, I became so absorbed in this intricate story.

We first meet Dana when she is not in a very good place. She has just lost her husband to cancer and buries him on that fateful morning of 9/11, a small grief it would seem compared to timing of 9/11. She had been on the verge of leaving him, but stayed with him to nurse him through his illness. She discovers that he has a lot of debts and after paying some of them off, she decided to head to South America where she spent her childhood.

Whilst there, she decides to look up an old friend of hers called Cassius; they did not know each other that well when they were younger and the Black/White divide did not help this. At first Dana is worried about what white people will think but it is the scary reaction of Cassius's family that Dana does not expect and has her moving on to Florida.

I found the dialogue quite stilted with Dana at first and it was hard follow at times, but I thought perhaps this was Dana in her unemotional, numb state as she was still grieving and I thought the author conveyed this well. I did find this a bit of a shame though as I was never truly able to connect to Dana because of this. I could however understand her struggles and feelings though if I really looked into it, and the one thing I did connect with her was her disappointment when waiting for Cassius to turn up and find her and not doing so.

I loved how many characters were in this and I particularly liked Solly as he seemed to take Dana under his wing and she ends up working for him. All the characters came across as very real and each unique in their own ways with their own flaws. The author also explores racism in its subtlest form in this without making it the main point of the story and I thought it was woven in well.

This novels covers a lot of political points as well as Dana's story and if you do read, you may need a dictionary nearby for some of the words, but still a story you can immerse yourself in.


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