Monday, December 19, 2011

Crossing the Bridge, by Michael Baron


The Story Plant, ISBN 9780981956817, January 2010

Hugh Penders is back in Amber, CT for his first extended visit since his brother Chase's death because his father has had a heart attack. It isn't just that his parents need his moral support; his father Richard needs him to take over running the store--and hopes he will take it over permanently. Both parents are offended when he flatly refuses, and agrees only to run it until it can be sold.

Since he's been drifting for the ten years since Chase died, and has recently quit his latest job, there's no obstacle to his doing so except that he finds working in the card and gift shop incredibly dull. Eventually, though, he gets bored enough that he starts making changes in the store, changes he feels his father should have made years ago. He's also distracted by running into Iris, his brother's last and most serious girlfriend, a woman to whom Hugh was also attracted. As he and Iris renew their friendship, they both have a lot of emotional baggage to work through with regard to Chase, and it soon looms as an obstacle to any future they might have together.

I found it took me longer to get into this book than any previous work by Baron that I've read. Almost perversely, this was because he's very good at what he does: he very effectively captured Hugh's disconnected, drifting state, his failure to move on from the crippling shock of his brother's death ten years earlier. It was only as he started to engage again that I found it easier to connect with the story, and care what happened to Hugh, Iris, Richard, the store, and the staff who work there.

Once that happened, I couldn't put it down. It was, in the end, a wholly satisfying novel.

Recommended.