Bridge of Clay

Most book reviews I can type up fairly quickly. I don’t spend a lot of time on them because the words just pour out. But this is a book I have had to spend a lot of time thinking about before I was able to write anything. And there’s no way my limited writing abilities will convey just how powerful and beautiful this book is. Markus Zusak is a master artist, and we are very lucky to be receiving his gifts.

I was given The Book Thief by my school librarian back when I was teaching. Somehow she got a hardback copy when it first came out and thought I would enjoy it. I was intrigued by the premise but didn’t fully realize what a profound book it was until a few chapters in. At that point, I grabbed a pen (I NEVER write in books unless I’m annotating to teach it) and began underlining some of the most beautiful phrases I had ever read, especially in a young adult book. By the end, I was sobbing.  My favorite sentence in literature is toward the end. “They hugged and cried and fell to the floor.” That’s it. Such a simple sentence. But it gutted me. I’ve reread The Book Thief once and loved it just as much. It’s perfect.

I then went back to read his earlier work I Am the Messenger, which is an equally amazing book, but the beautiful language of The Book Thief wasn’t as developed. But, as a story, it is definitely worth reading. When I heard he had a book coming out this fall, of course I was going to read it. After 14 years of The Book Thief being published, I was ready. Bridge of Clay is the best book I’ve read this year. No question. Told from the perspective of the oldest Dunbar brother, Matthew, we learn the story of the Dunbar boys (there are five of them), but especially of Clay. We learn the story of their mother, father, Clay’s big secret (be ready. You will have your heart torn out), Clay’s love for the neighbor girl, and how these boys manage to survive on their own. Zusak tells a gorgeous story, but it’s really his language, phrasing, and simple word choice that blows me away. I spent a few weeks to read this book because I was savoring each moment with it. Bridge of Clay is a masterpiece.

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