Today I am excited to introduce a new series of guest posts! Each month, I’ll be asking one of my friends to share with you a book that has been meaningful to them in some way. It might be their favorite book, a book they never expected to love, or a book that shaped them in some important way. I’m excited to see what my amazing friends bring to the table, and I hope you appreciate hearing some new voices here on Book Fifty!
My first guest author is my dear friend Laura. I met Laura during my first year of teaching, and if you know anything about teaching, you know that first year is a rough one!
She and the other English teachers quickly became a lifeline for me, and even though I’ve moved away, Laura and I still talk on an almost daily basis–we cover everything from our careers and families to our mutual love of Taylor Swift and Kate Middleton. I’m so thankful for her friendship and support–she has cheered for me through every step of this blogging process, and she is pretty much an all-around blessing. Tonight she’s shared a little bit about one of her favorite books, The Bridge of San Luis Rey, which she recommended to me a while back. I hope you enjoy her thoughts!
Earlier this month, Sarah wrote about giving required reading books a second chance so when she asked me to write about one of my favorite books, I jumped at the chance to share about a book that I only fell in love with because I gave it a second chance. When I read The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder as a sophomore in high school, I was concerned with getting what I needed out of it to pass a test more than anything else. After I read it again many years later, I recommend it to anyone who will listen to me.
What made me pick this book up again was when I saw that Tony Blair had quoted the last few lines of the novel at a memorial service for the British victims of the September 11th attacks. This made me want to revisit the novel to see why he had chosen this particular quote when he was attempting to make sense of the indescribable events that had left the world so shaken.
The Bridge of San Luis Rey tells the story of a missionary in Peru named Brother Juniper who witnesses the collapse of a bridge that lead to the death of five people. The book is broken into five parts with the first and last sections framing the stories of the five victims. When Brother Juniper sees the bridge fall, he questions whether this event was a random accident or the will of God. This leads him to spend six years researching the lives of the victims hoping to find scientific proof that will explain why these five people were the ones to die on the bridge that day. If you’re hoping for an answer to this unanswerable question, you won’t find it in the novel that follows. Instead you will learn about the lives of the five victims and how their interactions with others shape their perspectives and influence their decisions. While it can be a dense read at times, the in-depth descriptions of the characters are what make The Bridge of San Luis Rey one of my favorite stories. It constantly reminds me that remembering what these people did in their lives is more worthwhile and significant than questioning the reason for death.
When I read the novel again with the events of 9/11 in mind, I realized just how relevant this novel could be to those dealing with the pain of loss. It’s our natural instinct to want to make sense of tragedy as we grasp for any reason to help us understand things beyond our comprehension, but I’ve yet to find comfort when looking for those answers. Thornton Wilder does a remarkable job using the lives of his characters to deliver his message within the frame of the story without sounding cliché about seeing the good in a bad situation. One of my favorite things about books is the role they can play in shaping your perspective and helping you feel like you are not alone, even in the most uncertain of times.
I hope you enjoyed Laura’s post! Check back next month for another installment of Friday Night Writes.