Monday, September 16, 2013

Digital Review: Everybody Hurts

Rebecca Rogers Maher might be one of the more exciting author discoveries I've made this year.  The Bridge is the second self-published novella I've read by her, and while it certainly does have "triggers" in it (just as Hurricane Lily did), it's really gutsy. Whether those guts are going to work for other readers is, well - up to other readers.

There is no meet-cute in this story.  Henry and Christa meet each other on the west tower of the Brooklyn Bridge in the wee early hours of the morning.  Both of them are there to commit suicide.  Henry because he's tired of pretending (he suffers from depression) and Christa because her breast cancer has come back for a sequel.  Funny thing about trying to commit suicide by jumping off a bridge though - neither one of them can go through with it now that the other one is there.  So they decide to grab some breakfast - and over breakfast they decide to spend the day together.  They'll spend 24 hours together, trying to convince the other one that life is worth living.

Yeah, it's not exactly Sunshine Happy Land - but the emotional heft of this story is really great.  Henry was born into a privileged world and has a privileged life - which has made his depression a struggle for those around him to understand.  By contrast, Christa is on her own.  Her mother dead from a drug overdose, her sister an alcoholic.  She waits tables for a living and has a failed marriage under her belt.  She's already had one mastectomy, and they've just found a lump in her other breast.  She's alone, broke, tired, and not willing to go through breast cancer yet again.

The biggest trigger in this story, I think, will be Henry's depression.  It's something that isn't easy to understand (and live with) in "real life" - so writing about it isn't exactly a cake walk.  Like all tough subjects, I suspect readers will either actively dislike him (for being "selfish") or maybe say the author "got it wrong" (that's not how depression is in my personal/my friend's/my relative's experience).  As an average layperson who has extremely limited experience with depression, Henry worked for me.  And honestly, I found Christa to be a perfect foil for him.  They're opposites on one side of the coin, and have a lot in common on the other.  Even given the shorter novella format, I understood how these two people would be drawn to each other and develop feelings - even on such an abbreviated time table.  I also loved that the author told this story in first person, alternating chapters between the two different points-of-view.  We're inside both Christa's and Henry's heads - which makes both of them easier characters to crawl around inside of and "understand."

The fly in the ointment here is obviously the ending.  The book starts out in a dark place, and it is a romance - so how does the author end it with hope, but without descending into Sugary Fairy Tale Land?  Well, she's brings in an outside event.  It's not entirely successful for me, but it does work - and honestly mulling it over in my own head, I'm not sure what else could have been done.  The story does end hopefully, and it also ends with, what I felt, were realistic expectations.  Henry's depression isn't just going to magically go away.  Christa's cancer is something she's going to have to deal with for the rest of her days (and how many days will that be?).  But I don't feel sad for these people in the end.  I'm happy for them.  I'm  happy they've found each other and made a meaningful connection.  I'm not sure all readers will feel this way, which will make for some intriguing discussions (hopefully!).  Maher is setting herself up to be an author who won't be for everyone, but that everyone really should read.  Her voice and her risks are that intriguing.

Grade = B+

7 comments:

Brie said...

Have you read her Carina books? Those are really good too and similar in tone (but slightly more Women's Fiction than Romance). She was one of my author discoveries of last year and I've been enjoying her books ever since. I agree that her books are not for everyone, but I wish more people would read her, because she is good.

azteclady said...

Some of us can't read stories about people who suffer from depression because reading about depression is just too hard (hell, keeping your head above water is hard enough).

I admire people who can, and are willing to, tackle difficult subjects like these. Here's wishing Ms Rogers Maher much success with this story.

Mandi said...

Just finished this one and thought it was so well written. I read Hurricane Lily last year and loved the first half - this author definitely has a voice I'm attracted to.

In less than 100 pages she writes some powerful stuff.

Wendy said...

Brie: I have not read her Carina books, and in fact don't own them....yet. Next book order I need to take care of that oversight.

AL: Oh believe me, I can totally see how some readers just would not want to "go there" - for a variety of personal reasons. Readers bring their own baggage with them when they pick up a book. We don't necessarily WANT to - but we're human, it happens. I've read plenty of books over the years where I know my personal experience(s) colored my view/enjoyment or lack thereof for a particular story.

Mandi: She writes first person really well, and as much as I love first person? Even I'm willing to admit some authors just shouldn't go with it :) But there's nothing quite like well-done first person, and Maher has a really great "voice" for it.

Marguerite Kaye said...

Wow, I just downloaded this because it sounds so very different, though I admit the subject-matter sounds taxing to say the least. Not one to be read in the middle of the night when I can't sleep, which is now, but definitely one that deserves to be read. Thank you for the review, I don't think I'd have gone near it on my own, to be honest.

Wendy said...

Marguerite: Yeah, don't read it when you can't sleep! I read it on an airplane, inhaled it, then had all evening to process it. I can't imagine starting it in the middle of the night because then I'd still be unable to sleep because I'd be too wired thinking about what I had just read :)

nath said...

Interesting. I've never heard of this author, but sounds like I should give her a try :) And surprisingly, this, I think I could read :) Thanks for bringing her to my attention, Wendy!