Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak
For how do you walk towards your father without being a son? How do you leave home without realising where you’re from?
This book… it’s a 568 page poem about brothers, running, fathers, a bridge, mistakes, Homer’s Odyssey, mothers, stories, dying, legacies, horses and a mule, clay, painting, David and the slaves, reading, Pont Neuf, grief, refugees, an engraved lighter, a piano, a typewriter, a peg…
…there was always a bulkiness to us. A bursting at the seams. Whatever we did, there was more: More washing, more cleaning, more eating, more dishes, more arguing, more fighting and throwing and hitting and farting… It didn’t matter how in control or on-top-of-things were, there was chaos a heartbeat away. We could be skinny and constantly agile, but there was never quite room for all of it – so everything was done at once.
Like many readers, I had eagerly awaited Zusak’s ‘next book’. And let’s be frank, we all waited very patiently. And then it arrived, this story about the five Dunbar brothers with their absent father and dead mother. And I pounced on it but just couldn’t get into it. I heard Zusak speak, which of course made me enthusiastic all over again but no, I didn’t get very far. And then my book group selected it, so I persevered through the first few chapters. And then something changed – the intimacy of those family moments, those wounded lovely boys, a mother’s heart breaking as she contemplated what she’d miss. And Zusak had me wholly, completely until the very last word.
You know your mother’s dying when she takes you out individually. We skip moments like stones.
From the service we carried her away. On one side was Henry, Clay and me. On the other, Michael, Tommy and Rory – same as our Archer Street football teams – and the woman inside was weightless. The coffin weighed a tonne. She was a feather wrapped up in a chopping block.
And we walked back out together – through the crowds and words of people, and a city all swollen with sun. And death came walking with us.
From there, there was a sort of bashed-up quiet. The table was arid between father and sons, and a hell of a lot of toast crumbs.
I received my copy of Bridge of Clay from the publisher, Random House UK, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
She kissed him on the back of his neck, very light, very soft. And then they ate the Iced VoVos. Right to the last.