Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Bridge of San Luis Rey, by Thornton Wilder

The Bridge of San Luis Rey
Thornton Wilder

In Peru, a bridge collapses. Five people are killed. Tragedies such as this happen everyday. Are such accidents the result of a random, chaotic world? Or is there a greater order at work, one which plans and does nothing at random? One man seeks to prove that this is not a random accident.

Brother Juniper sees the collapse of the famous bridge as a way to unite the world of theology and the world of science. Taking a scientific approach, he delves into his investigation to prove that these five, seemingly random people, were somehow connected, proving that God is at work.

Does he find the evidence he so earnestly seeks? I won't spoil it for you, but those who are looking for a clear, unambiguous ending will be disappointed. The Bridge of San Luis Rey will leave you thinking and questioning you own thoughts on the subject.

The novel is short, and the prose is simple and bare, although poetic at times. However, it is also a book that must be consumed slowly. Its message is ultimately less about God and more about the individual's effect on others.

The Bridge of San Luis Rey is divided into parts, as Juniper investigates each person who died in the accident. As he tells the story of each's life as he has learned it, we begin to see how these victims were similar, and, of course, entirely different. In some parts the narration of each's specifics became a bit tedious, although the novel was short enough (about 108 pages) that this dryness quickly ended and so didn't really matter.

In a nutshell: A short, but not a fast, read, The Bridge of San Luis Rey will have you pondering your own place in the world. True, it's dry in spots, but the message is intriguing.

Bibliolatry Scale: 4 out of 6 stars

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