Here is a story told inside out and back to front
Five Dunbar brothers are living – fighting, loving, grieving – in the perfect chaos of a house without grown-ups. Today, the father who left them has just walked right back in.
He has a surprising request: Who will build a bridge with him?
It is Clay, a boy tormented by a long-buried secret, who accepts. But why is Clay so broken? And why must he fulfil this extraordinary challenge?
Bridge of Clay is about a boy caught in a current, a boy intent on destroying everything he has in order to become everything he needs to be. Ahead of him lies the bridge, the vision that will save both his family and himself.
It will be a miracle and nothing less.
I put off buying this book when it first came out simply because The Book Thief is my all-time favourite book and I was worried that this book wouldn’t be able to live up to the high pedestal I put it on. The Book Thief was my second ever review on this blog so it holds a place very dear to my heart.
Bridge of Clay follows the Dunbar boys, five boys who have been left to their own devices to live and survive together in this unperfect world. Their mother has died and their father left them, that is until he walks back into their lives one day and asks if any of them will help him build a bridge? Clay, the second youngest, says he will. Little does he, or any of them know, the journey he and they will go on together to build his bridge.
I do not know how to review this book simply because my feelings for it are immense. The bridge, both literal and metaphorical, is where Clay has been leading to all of his life even if he does not know it.
He was always the listener, he would sit and listen to his mother’s stories about her life before the Dunbar boys, before their father and before Australia. He would listen as she recalled everything she could about her herself, the mistake maker, while saving one story until her last.
Nobody knows why Clay agreed to help their father with the bridge, but they are all in agreement that he should go. Matthew, the eldest, despite wanting to keep Clay at home, knows that he has been preparing for this all of his life, even if he didn’t. The brothers club together to ensure he can help their father build a bridge, even if they do not understand the significance at the time.
Clay, the listener, is full of secrets and the biggest secret of them all is right in front of you throughout the book. It builds slowly until it feels like the book can contain it no longer before it lays it in front of you, why does Clay always carry a peg with him?
The past, the present and the future are interchangeable in this novel. It’s told from the present, about the past about the future they would face.
Everything has clearly been thought out, it is a novel which has been written and beaten into shape with love. Each word is carefully chosen and the finished book is nothing shy of a masterpiece. Having read it, it would be wrong of me to compare it to The Book Thief. Bridge of Clay is a book unto itself and deserves all of its praise based on the words inside and the emotions it elicits.
Whether it takes a year, 10 or 20, I will be first in line to pick up Zusak’s next book because I know he is an author like no other.
This book will not be for everyone, I can hand on heart say that. The floating narrative and slow pace may be off putting but I urge you to stick with it. The tale of the Dunbar boys and Clay’s bridge deserves to be read by all.