Friday, April 2, 2010

A Bridge Back by Patrick Garry

Nate Morrissey's world fell apart nineteen years ago. In college and separated from his love, Laura, they are both miserable and tired of waiting for their families back in Mount Kelven to approve of their relationship. They decide to elope, a decision that leads to tragedy. Reading the letters they've left behind, both sets of parents rush to follow and try to stop the wedding. They drive wildly and a perfect storm of tragic coincidences occur. The bridge that spans the lake malfunctions. Both cars are going too rapidly to stop and plunge to the river, where they land on a passenger boat. Nineteen people die, including both of Nate's parents and Laura's father.

The entire town is crushed, and many blame Nate and Laura. They both leave town, but the tragedy forces them apart and their relationship is over after that night. Nate goes on to become a lawyer and works in a high-pressure law firm; one that demands so much that he has no time for relationships or a life outside of work. Laura marries someone else, but after a divorce returns to Mount Kelven to care for her mother, who was left an invalid by the accident.

The book picks up at the point where Nate is assigned a case in Mount Kelven. His law firm doesn't know his connection to the tragedy, and has a client who is facing issues arising from it. Nate argues unsuccessfully that someone else should be assigned, but his boss is adamant that Nate is the right person for the job. He reluctantly packs a bag and heads back.

In Mount Kelven, he renews old friendships and starts new ones. He is delighted to find Helen, his grandfather's true friend, still alive and living there. While visiting her, he runs into Laura and the attraction is still there. He also meets new friends. Carmen owns the motel where Nate is staying and takes an interest in him and his story. She has a dream of buying and restoring the old hotel his grandfather ran for so many years, and where Helen still lives. He also meets Abel, the bridge tender that fatal night. Like Nate, Abel has led a constricted life since the accident, feeling that everyone blames him for his part in the tragedy.

Nate and Laura work on their relationship, wondering if they can truly go back to what they felt so long ago. In the process of helping Carmen and Helen, secrets about the town and the accident start to emerge. Can Nate discover the truth so many years afterwards, and will doing so enable him and Laura to pick up their lives?

Patrick Garry has written an interesting book that delves into how the past affects our current decisions, and that probes the question of whether one can ever go back and reclaim past happiness. The characters are believable, as is the portrayal of small town life. Readers will want to discover the secrets that are carefully revealed, and to find out what happens to Nate and Laura. This book is recommended for current fiction readers.

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