3 out of 4 stars
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I am going to say right off that I love the concept of The Bridge Club by Joseph Cools. Two main themes run throughout the book: one of being strong and overcoming traumatic life events, and the other of having friendships strong enough to last through all of the good and bad that happens in this journey called life.
Sarah wakes up in a hospital to discover that her suicide attempt was obviously unsuccessful. Her memories come back in a flood. A college-aged hospital volunteer (candy striper) is incensed at the way Sarah was treated by various medical staff members and devises a plan to have Sarah released into the care of friends, rather than being sent to the psychiatric ward. Sarah soon finds herself with three college students she did not previously know. Through this experience, the four girls form a bond of friendship that lasts the rest of their lives. The author weaves the history of the four friends into the narrative by alternating between past and present. Sarah’s horrific story of abuse is told first. I was thrown just a little at the beginning of the story, by the manner in which the author switches between the present and the past with little warning. Some of the switches were a bit startling, but after I got used to the writing style, I genuinely enjoyed reading this book.
The Bridge Club is written a little differently than a standard fiction story that introduces you to the characters and plot, builds conflict and tension toward a specific climax, and finishes with a resolution. Instead, this is more of a meandering story that follows the four friends through several stages of life. It is a nice way to learn more about each character, but if you are looking for an action-filled plot, this is not for you. The pace is a little slow in spots. Each of the characters has a time of personal crisis where they depend on the strength of the other three. The events that happen in this story could (and do) happen to just about anyone, so there is a feeling of reality throughout the book. None of the events are out of range with life; however, I did sometimes feel as though crises were resolved too neatly. The characters were not always allowed to experience the full range and depth of emotions. I believe this serves to highlight the friendship theme, but I feel the book would be stronger if we were allowed to really experience the thoughts and feelings of each character.
In the end, not only do each of the main characters face demons of their past and present, but they also become stronger people because of the difficulties that they have faced. I really liked how their friendship grows stronger as they age and as they face hardships together.
Overall, I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. I definitely recommend this book to anyone searching for a good story about friendship. I also recommend it to anyone who has had something really bad happen and is searching for meaning in life. I wanted to give it a full 4-star rating, as this is a solid plot. However, I would have liked it better if the author would have allowed me to really feel what each of the characters go through. I feel Sarah was developed well, but the other three friends could be stronger.
The Bridge Club
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