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Bridge of Clay was an astounding novel that strengthened my gratitude for words

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Upon completing the masterpiece that is Bridge of Clay, I researched reviews online to see if others felt the same chaotic mixing bowl of emotions that I felt by the last turn of the final page. There were mixed reviews, but the most interesting piece of information I read was that it took the author twenty years to write the book.

It’s easy to understand exactly why it took two decades to write this novel because it’s one of the most complex stories I’ve ever read.

Bridge of Clay follows the story of five brothers, the Dunbar boys, who live in a chaotic home by themselves because their father left not long after their mother passed away. One day, their father returns and asks his boys if they want to build a bridge with him for reconciliation reasons. Four of the boys say no because they despise the man that left them after their mother died. But Clay, the middle child, says yes– a decision that changes each Dunbar boy forever.

It’s a simple storyline of a father and his son who build a bridge and strengthen their relationship in the process. The main plot isn’t complicated, and it’s not the reason why I think it took twenty years to formulate. I believe it was the subplots that intricately intertwined to form a chain of connecting characters and stories that took twenty years to formulate.

This entangled story is told by Matthew, the oldest Dunbar boy. He beautifully tells the story of his parents’ past and their intertwining interests, lives, and memories. As the inside flap of the book says, the story is told “inside out and back to front.” The novel is not linear; it goes back and forwards through time, and each chapter is a different period of a different character’s life. While this may seem confusing and hard to follow, it isn’t in the slightest. I think another reason why it took twenty years to write is for that very reason: the back-to-front storyline isn’t confusing. Because every single character is connected by something small or something substantial, each chapter connects itself to the next like puzzle pieces.

By the end of the novel, I had linked together different pieces of information to form a 534-piece puzzle. It was the most heartbreaking, gut-wrenching, tear-inducing puzzle I’ve ever pieced together. I cried four different times while reading this novel. No, that isn’t an exaggeration. I wish it was.

Bridge of Clay is easily one of my favorite books I’ve ever read. I wish I hadn’t finished it so fast because I’ve lost the ability to see the words for the first time ever. Every time I finish a book, I am left with that epiphany. No longer can I look at each page for the very first time, flipping the pages with anticipation of which story Matthew will tell next. I know that this happens every single time I complete a novel, yet here I am, finishing book after book and repeating this callous cycle that always ends in an epiphany every time, without fail.

Markus Zusak, most notably known for his equally as beautiful The Book Thief, created another masterpiece. His way with words in Bridge of Clay had me marking every other page filled to the brim with poetic phrases. The most interesting thing about the novel was the fact that Zusak’s writing was actually Matthew’s. It probably took twenty years for Zusak to get inside of a damaged kid’s head and tell the story of his life and all the moments before, in between, and after.

This book was so much more than a simple story of father and son reconciliation. It wasn’t a cliche book about grief or loss; it was an elaborate, heartfelt story about five boys connected by their family’s stories and pasts.

Every word in Bridge of Clay had purpose and meaning. Every character had purpose and meaning. Every story had purpose and meaning. It was so easy to tell that Zusak poured his soul into the pages of this book; he chose his words carefully and packed a powerful punch into each phrase. This book made me realize how grateful I am for words, the ability to use and read them, and for influential authors like Zusak that make me cry.

He can write, and I will forever be thankful that he spent twenty years tucking life and love into the creases of the pages.

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The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central
Bridge of Clay was an astounding novel that strengthened my gratitude for words