Bridgford, Peter. Halfway to Schist. Black Rose Writing, 2022.
Reason read: As a reviewer for the Early Review Program for LibraryThing I occassionally get to review books from people I like.
Using an escape to a remote Point au Baril fishing lodge as a means for recovery for a recent widower and his only teenage daughter, Bridgford sets the stage for exploration into how a mother’s suicide, an uprooted existence, and various difficult relationships impact a young girl’s life. Opal Ethelred “Red” Rogers has her whole life shaken time and time again. I agree with another reviewer that some “adult” reactions to Red’s experiences are unexpected, but the narrative rings true even if it is a little repetitious. The best part of Bridgford’s writing is the descriptive imagery. The use of scientific geologic terminology juxtaposed with gorgeous narrative was stunning. The deliberate placement of words was like carefully laying beautiful stones for an ornate patio. The end result is not only solid as rock, but beautiful as well.Told from the perspective teenage girl. Like how A Great and Terrible Beauty was about a girl who lost her mother at an any early, so does the first person protagonist, Red in Halfway to Schist; only, their widowed fathers take different paths when trying to decide how to care for their coming of age daughters. One father sends his daughter off to boarding school while Halfway to Schist’s father takes Red to a remote island to rebuild a derelict camp. Like all girls in a similar situation, Red dreams of her mother and tries to make the best of her post-mom life. That is where the similarities end. The father in A Great and Terrible Beauty disconnects from his daughter and the story turns into a fantasy. In Halfway to Schist Red and her father are emotionally synched and grounded in a very real universe. Father and daughter sigh at the same time, they hold their collective breath at the same time. Despite this closeness, the summer of 1955 brings an end to innocence and childhood. Serious events occur in Red’s young teenage life; too serious for someone so young. As an adult looking back, she is able to tell the story of a near rape, racial prejudice, and a murder with near unemotional stoicism.
As an aside, Bridgford was so specific about a pair of shoes I had to look them up: Converse Blue Lapel Bosey boots. They are actually pretty cool.
What can I say about September? It sucked. There. I did have something to say after all. It sucked because I didn’t diverge or divulge. I like epiphanies that flash like light bulbs and bring about great catapults of change. None of that happened. I barely did anything worth mentioning except a great trip to Colorado. Then Jones died. That really sucked. What else? I didn’t run at all. That also sucked. My uncle started hospice care and do I dare mention September is the anniversary month for my grandmother, father, and high school friend’s passings. An ugly and sucky month all the way around. Silver linings: my 14th wedding anniversary and two opportunities to hear Natalie Merchant sing. Then! And then there were the books. I can’t forget the books! Here they are:
- Babylon Rolling by Amanda Boyden (EB & print)
- Most Offending Soul Alive by Judith Heimann (EB & print)
- Life and Times of Miami Beach by Amy Armbruster (print)
- The Workshop: Seven Decades of ther Iowa Writers’ Workshop edited by Tom Grimes (print)
- Fuzz by Ed McBain (print and EB)
- Case of the Man Who Died Laughing by Tarquin Hall (AB & print)
- The Spring of the Ram by Dorothy Dunnett (print)
- Holding the Dream by Nora Roberts (EB)
- Tandia by Bryce Courtenay (print & EB)
Early Review for LibraryThing:
- Where Eagles Dare Not Perch by Peter Bridgford (EB) – finally, finally finished it!
Bridgford, Peter. Where Eagles Dare Not Perch. Castroville, Texas: Black Rose Publishing, 2018.
Reason read: the July pick for the Early Review program for LibraryThing.
In a nutshell: the American civil war changed people. In Where Eagles Dare Not Perch Zachary Webster, a sharpshooter in the Civil War, has honed his skills to become a numbed-to-life killing machine. In battle he thrives on ramping up the death toll. On furlough in Maine he discovers his naive girlfriend, Catherine Brandford, has been seemingly sweet on another. Anger takes over but Zachary doesn’t commit a crime of passion when killing his enemy. He first stalks the man like prey, corners him, and in the end gives no thought to leaving the man to bleed to death in the snow. Early on Bridgford wants you to know revenge begets revenge. The victim’s brother, a “tattooed giant” of a man, goes on the hunt for Zachary. Just as ruthless as Zachary, Jedediah Stiller has his own tale of horror to contend with. He ends up playing a cruel game that has him fighting for his life. Despite this agony he hungers for pain; to feel it and inflict it in equal measures. Above all, he knows he must find Zachary. Catherine Brandford also knows and fears this acutely. With her bumbling innocence, she embarks on a quest to get to Zachary first, but she too runs into her own private hell. Who will find Zachary first? When will the hunter become prey? The rest of Where Eagles Dare Not Perch is one big cat and mouse game with a lot of gratuitous violence for everyone involved thrown in.
Do you know my number one sign of a good book? When the plot doesn’t do it, it’s when I find myself cringing as I remember characters long after I have turned the last page and closed the book. It is one thing for an author to make you feel something for the characters while you are in the midst of the tale, but it’s quite another to make you think about those same characters when you are finished. That’s not to say I really liked any of Bridgford’s people; not Zachary or Jedediah or even Catherine. The more important revelation I must stress is that I believed them. I believed the hate. I believed the hurt. I believed the need for revenge on all levels. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say I even believed the ultimate forgiveness…
Confessional: electronic books are not as popular as the print so I knew I would have a really good chance of getting Where Eagles Dare Not Perch when requesting it through LibraryThing.
Confessional Two: I *might* have a little bias. I know of Bridgford somewhat. He taught school on the island where I grew up and he ended up marrying my sister’s college friend.
Book trivia: There was one final scene that I thought was a bit much. It was almost as if Bridgford didn’t know how to wrap up the tale. He ended up including a bizarre couple who ooze more hateful hate than anyone you have previously met. I thought it was an unnecessary grand finale.
I don’t post a lot of personal stuff on this side of the writing. Not usually. Typically, I leave all that other blathering on JustCauseICan. I may write about the run or the island, a brief sentence here or there, but of little else…except for today. When you lose someone you adore it is hard to focus. That is precisely my problem today. I am shattered by grief and only put back together again by words. So, I must read. Here are the books planned for September. I hope they heal:
- Babylon Rolling by Amanda Boyden – to remember Hurricane Ivan as it wreaked havoc on my 2004 September wedding.
- The Most Offending Soul Alive: Tom Harrisson and His Remarkable Life by Judith M. Heinmann – in honor of Harrisson’s birth month being in September.
- Life and Times of Miami Beach by Ann Armbruster – in honor of Hurricane Irma.
- Workshop: Seven Decades of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop: 43 Stories, Recollections, and Essays on Iowa’s Place in Twentieth Century American Literature edited by Tom Grimes – in honor of Grimes’ birth month being in September.
- Fuzz by Ed McBain – to end the series started in July in memory of McBain’s passing.
- Case of the Man Who Died Laughing by Tarquin Hall – to end the series started in August in honor of Rajiv Ratna Ganghi, India’s youngest Prime Minister’s birth month.
- Spring of the Ram by Dorothy Dunnett – to continue the series started in honor of Dunnett’s birth month (August).
- Holding the Dream by Nora Roberts – to continue the series started in honor of August being Dream Month.
- Tandia by Bryce Courtenay – to end the series started in August in honor of Courtenay’s birth month.
Early Review for LibraryThing:
Confessional: I am still reading Where Eagles Dare Not Perch by Peter Bridgford.
So. I’ve done a few short runs here and there. Nothing crazy, but at least I’m back in it somewhat. Spent more time with the books. Speaking of which, here they are:
- Under the Snow by Kerstin Ekman (EB/print)
- The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe
- The Case of the Missing Servant by Tarquin Hall (AB)
- Crazy Jack by Donna Jo Napoli (EB)
- Power of One by Bryce Courtenay (EB)
- Niccolo Rising by Dorothy Dunnett (EB/print)
- Daring to Dream by Nora Roberts (EB)
- A Season in Red: My Great Leap Forward into the New China by Kirsty Needham
- A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains by Isabella L. Bird
- Eurydice Street by Sofka Zinovieff
- Arctic Chill by Arnuldur Indridason (EB/print) – which I forgot to mention when I was plotting the month. It’s the last book of the series -that I’m reading. (There are others.)
- Big Bad City by Ed McBain
LibraryThing Early Review:
- Where Eagles Dare Not Perch by Peter Bridgford (EB) – which came after I plotted the month of reading so it wasn’t mentioned before.