Henry Bright is newly returned to West Virginia from the battlefields of the First World War. Grief struck by the death of his young wife and unsure of how to care for the infant son she left behind, Bright is soon confronted by the destruction of the only home he’s ever known. His only hope for safety is the angel who has followed him to Appalachia from the trenches of France and who now promises to protect him and his son. Together, Bright and his newborn, along with a cantankerous goat and the angel guiding them, make their way through a landscape ravaged by forest fire toward an uncertain salvation, haunted by the abiding nightmare of his experiences in the war and shadowed by his dead wife’s father, the Colonel, and his two brutal sons.
Rose Krzton-Presson says:
Josh Ritter’s debut novel Bright’s Passage is not a disappointment for fans of his music. His prose echoes the intricacy of his song lyrics and Ritter seems to have mastered delicately juxtaposing everything in this book. Henry Bright is able to face his murderous family members, but is terrified at the thought of raising his newborn son alone. The story is able to whip back to a misty Appalachian morning after an explosive scene in muddy trenches of France during WWI. Set in West Virginia, Bright’s Passage is steeped in Ritter’s true Americana style with a sense of upstanding nobility given to the local culture. The book also brings religion and morality into question. With a guardian angel (or a hallucination of a talking horse brought upon by PTSD, depending on the reader’s interpretation) that doesn’t always keep Bright out of harm’s way, Ritter presents a very interesting religious situation, with no particular slant. The freshman novelist has room to improve. Bright’s Passage has some some loose ends and fuzzy plot points. But if Ritter’s last decade of musical growth is any sign of his writing improvements to come, he is sure to join Twain and Poe as one of the great American artists.
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