“Bridge of Clay” by Markus Zusak— A Family Saga

Zusak, Markus. “Bridge of Clay”, Knopf, 2018.

A Family Saga

Amos Lassen

It seems as if we have been waiting for this story of five brothers, a murderer, a houseful of animals named after Greek heroes, a piano, an immigrant, a racetrack, a mattress in an empty field, a jockey, a clothespin, a book and a bridge. Granted this is a very strange list but if you have read “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak, you know that he has the ability to make everything not just come together but fit.

When I read a book, I always want to see if it influences me in any way and we all know that there are books that are pleasant reads and that there are books that are experiences. This is a total experience. Zusak has the ability to make us feel that we are experiencing what is written on the page. “Bridge of Clay” is the story of five brothers who bring each other up in a world run by their own rules. The Dunbar boys love and fight as they learn to deal with the adult world and learn about the moving secret behind their father’s disappearance. Clay Dunbar stands at the center of the boys and he is the one who will be able to bridge his family with the past. Zusak takes on a journey that takes us in circles before we reach the final destination. As we move forward we get to know the Dunbar brothers and become part of their story. We have a story about forgiveness and how the five brothers deal with it.

If you are familiar with Zusak, you know that his language can be extremely stylized and decadent at times but then so is life. We know that boys can be loud, destructive, and crass but they are also beautiful. At times the story is depressing and often very sensitive and moving. Grief is one of the main themes but so are love and brotherhood and we get a lot to think about.

I found that the narratives about the boys to be honest and true. Their house is a mess and filled with animals. The boys’ father abandoned them shortly after their mother’s death. They solve their problems through fighting with their fists and other forms of violence and then one day, a man comes into their house who is their father and who know wants to repair the damage that has been done due to his disappearance.

Only Clay agrees to try but he is especially tormented and has suffered. There is so much to like here but I also do not want to give too much away. We have waited thirteen years for this book and I understand that Zusak labored over it. It may have taken thirteen years but it took me only one afternoon to read it, even though it is more than 500 pages long. I simply could not stop reading.

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