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A Book Review of “Bridge of Clay” by Markus Zusak

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Rose is an enthusiastic writer and reader who publishes articles every Thursday. She enjoys all book genres, especially drama and fantasy.

What’s the Big Deal?

Bridge of Clay is one of those books you can’t help but have your eye on. After publishing lesser-known novels such as the Wolfe series and I Am The Messenger, author Markus Zusak rewrote his career as an author when 2005 introduced The Book Thief. The holocaust classic greeted rave reviews, multiple awards, and eventually a movie—but until Bridge of Clay came out, Zusak hadn’t written anything since. It took 13 years for him to do it, and 20 years of writing and rewriting, but finally Zusak has introduced his story about love—and its opposite—and what the term “family” really means.

“Bridge of Clay” by Markus Zusak

“Bridge of Clay” by Markus Zusak

Plot Summary

Bridge of Clay takes place in the suburbs of Sydney, Australia, in the ramshackle house of the five Dunbar boys. The boys live on their own ever since their mother, Penny, died of cancer, and their father left. The story revolves mainly around Clay, who is the fourth Dunbar boy and the one who was most affected by their mother’s death.

When the boys’ father approaches them one afternoon, long after he left, he asks if any of the boys would be interested in helping him build a bridge he plans to construct by his house. The boys refuse, but Clay later finds his father’s address and goes to help him, leaving high school, his brothers, and his old life behind.

Over the course of the months it takes to build the bridge, Clay rediscovers who his father is, and who his mother was. He learns about his parents’ childhood, and the secrets his parents never told. Clay finds the truth hidden beneath his family’s pain, and manages, at the same time, to build a bridge to the family that the Dunbars used to be.

Quick Facts

  • Author: Markus Zusak
  • Pages: 544
  • Genre: YA fiction, family fiction
  • Ratings: 3.8/5 Goodreads, 4/5 Common Sense Media
  • Release date: October 9, 2018
  • Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf

To Read or Not to Read?

I recommend this book if:

  • You like wordy, poetic authors like Jodi Picoult or Anthony Doerr
  • You’re looking for a novel to really invest in
  • You have the patience for a longer book with a somewhat confusing beginning; although many people loyally follow Zusak’s writing, some readers think he takes too long to get to the point
  • You enjoy a captivating storyline with many different pieces that fit in the overall puzzle
  • You have experience with loss or love

She laughed and he felt her breath, and he thought about that warmness, how people were warm like that, from inside to out; how it could hit you and disappear, then back again, and nothing was ever permanent...

— Markus Zusak, “Bridge of Clay”

Reviews

Bridge of Clay is one of those monumental books that can draw you across space and time into another family’s experience in the most profound way.” —The Washington Post

“You could argue that Zusak has a tendency to overplay the theatrical illumination, as even the act of opening the fridge becomes a physical assault: ‘From nowhere there was light. It was white and heavy and belted him across the eyes like a football hooligan.’ But if The Book Thief was a novel that allowed Death to steal the show, its slightly chaotic, overlong, though brilliantly illuminated follow-up is affirmatively full of life.” —The Guardian

Markus Zusak, the book’s author

Markus Zusak, the book’s author

The Takeaway

All in all, I think Bridge of Clay is definitely worth lending some time to. Its romantic descriptions and beautiful characters will make you want to read it again and again (if not only to understand it better)—both times I read it, I found myself crying when it was over, simply because it was over. It’s one of those books that, if you have the patience for it, you won’t soon forget the lessons it teaches. Like Clay does with the lessons he learns, you'll carry them with you for a long time.

If you're interested, you can buy the book here.