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Bright's Passageby Josh Ritter
"When 35-year-old singer-songwriter Josh Ritter was in college at Oberlin in the mid-90s, he created his own major: 'American History Through Narrative Folk Music.' It was there, in pastoral Ohio, that he recorded his first album. Fifteen years later, he's writing not just songs but books, too, and whatever preoccupations were at play in that college thesis are still at work today. Bright's Passage, Ritter's debut novel, reads like a protracted folk song and features many of the form's perennial motifs: Biblical names, blazing fires, ghosts in white lace, a beatific baby." Alice Gregory, NPR (Read the entire NPR review)
Synopses & Reviews
Josh Ritter's first novel is a wondrous, suspenseful, and uniquely affecting story of the journey taken by a father and his infant son.
Henry Bright is newly returned to West Virginia from the battlefields of the First World War. Grief struck by the death of his young wife and unsure of how to care for the infant son she left behind, Bright is soon confronted by the destruction of the only home he's ever known. His only hope for safety is the angel who has followed him to Appalachia from the trenches of France and who now promises to protect him and his son.
Together, Bright and his newborn, along with a cantankerous goat and the angel guiding them, make their way through a landscape ravaged by forest fire toward an uncertain salvation, haunted by the abiding nightmare of his experiences in the war and shadowed by his dead wife's father, the Colonel, and his two brutal sons.
At times harrowing, at times funny, and always possessed by the sheer gorgeousness and unique imagination that have made Josh Ritter's songs beloved to so many, this is the debut of a virtuoso fiction writer.
"War is hell, and so is Henry Bright's homecoming from the trenches of WWI in songwriter Ritter's appropriately lyrical debut. Bright is a half-shattered veteran whose ordeal in combat continues with the death of his young wife in childbirth. Spurred on by an angel who speaks to him through his livestock, Henry torches the cabin where his wife died, using the family Bible to spark the blaze. Soon, the angel tells Henry his infant son is the Future King of Heaven, a replacement for the one 'who has soaked the world in blood.' Henry's desolation is believably crushing, sometimes darkly funny, and rendered with a lyricist's delicacy: against the backdrop of the forest fire sparked by the cabin's blaze, Henry, the child, horse, and a goat make their way to town, dodging his wife's psychotic family, who blame him for her death. 'The sky was too dark for afternoon, and where the sun should have hung there was now only an undulating black curtain of heat, which pulsed through the windowpanes upon his face like the throb of an open furnace.' As the fire threatens Bright's friends and enemies, Ritter evokes war, violence and the fearful and numb responses to trauma, squaring them up in a hopeful, humble revelation. (July)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"A perfect marriage of the miraculous and the mundane, Bright's Passage is itself something of a miracle. Combining the pull of a big ballad and the intimacy of a whispered monologue, it satisfies on every level: from its deceptively casual style and unexpected coinages to its astute psychology and emotional power. I imagine this is precisely the book every fan of Ritter's music wanted, but Bright's Passage is far more than that." Wesley Stace, author of Misfortune and Charles Jessold, Considered as a Murderer
"An adventure story with the penetrating emotional colors of a fable; a myth-like survival quest with the convincing texture of a movie; a good read that stays in the memory." Robert Pinsky
"Josh Ritter is already one of the country's most accomplished songwriters. Based on the heartbreaking, luminous Bright's Passage, he may become one of our most accomplished novelists as well." Dennis Lehane
About the Author
Josh Ritter is a songwriter from Moscow, Idaho. His albums include The Animal Years and So Runs the World Away. Bright's Passage is his first novel. He lives in New York.
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