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Bridge

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Overview

From Pulitzer Prize winner Doug Marlette comes the captivating story of Pick Cantrell, a successful newspaper cartoonist whose career has hit the skids. In the grip of a midlife meltdown, Pick returns with his wife and son to a small North Carolina town, where he confronts the ghosts of his past in the form of the family matriarch and his boyhood nemesis, Mama Lucy. What follows is an extraordinary story within a story, as Pick uncovers startling truths about himself and about the role his grandmother played in ...

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Overview

From Pulitzer Prize winner Doug Marlette comes the captivating story of Pick Cantrell, a successful newspaper cartoonist whose career has hit the skids. In the grip of a midlife meltdown, Pick returns with his wife and son to a small North Carolina town, where he confronts the ghosts of his past in the form of the family matriarch and his boyhood nemesis, Mama Lucy. What follows is an extraordinary story within a story, as Pick uncovers startling truths about himself and about the role his grandmother played in the tragic General Textile Strike Of 1934

A novel about family, love, and forgiveness, The Bridge explores how much we ever really know about others, and most important, about ourselves.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist Doug Marlette, creator of the comic strip "Kudzu," explores how much we ever really know about our friends and family members -- let alone about ourselves -- in this finely crafted, literary first novel.
(Reader's Prize) - ELLE Magazine
Marlette is one of the best new writers Ive read in a long time....[The Bridge] is absolutely compelling.
Charlotte Observer
“The Bridge [is] a well-written, engrossing tale....An impressive debut and powerful read.”
St. Petersburg Times
“Marlette’s fiction is as searing and brilliant as his visual art. The Bridge is an exceptional, eloquent book.”
New York Times Book Review
“Marlette’s prose has a straightforward immediacy.”
Raleigh News & Observer
“Impressive...Engaging...[Marlette] is a talented novelist.”
Booklist
"Marlette masterfully evokes the fierce familial bonds that can either devastate or liberate the human spirit."
ELLE Magazine (Reader's Prize)
Marlette is one of the best new writers Ive read in a long time....[The Bridge] is absolutely compelling.
ELLE Magazine (Reader’s Prize)
Marlette is one of the best new writers Ive read in a long time....[The Bridge] is absolutely compelling.
(Reader's Prize) - Elle Magazine
Marlette is one of the best new writers Ive read in a long time....[The Bridge] is absolutely compelling.
Rhett Jackson
“..one of the best novels to come out of the South in recent years.”
Valerie Sayers
The Bridge [is] a great story—exuberant, proud, myth-challenging. A hugely ambitious novel.
Jay Hollenberger
"An exceptional first novel from a multi-talented author: gripping, exciting, moving, challenging, illuminating."
ELLE Magazine (Reader’s Prize)
Marlette is one of the best new writers Ive read in a long time....[The Bridge] is absolutely compelling.
—Booklist
“Marlette masterfully evokes the fierce familial bonds that can either devastate or liberate the human spirit.”
—Jay Hollenberger
“An exceptional first novel from a multi-talented author: gripping, exciting, moving, challenging, illuminating.”
--Booklist
“Marlette masterfully evokes the fierce familial bonds that can either devastate or liberate the human spirit.”
--Jay Hollenberger
“An exceptional first novel from a multi-talented author: gripping, exciting, moving, challenging, illuminating.”
Publishers Weekly
Although admirably ambitious and sporadically engaging, this altogether disjointed and overstuffed (not to mention disappointingly self-conscious and contrived) roman ? clef marks the fiction debut of a gifted and perceptive artist, widely acclaimed as a Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist and for the homespun philosophies and humorous insights of his syndicated comic strip, Kudzu. Unblushingly autobiographical, the novel follows the self-destructive adventures of Pick Cantrell, an "enfant terrible" editorial cartoonist who has risen to eminence at the Sun, a Long Island daily newspaper that purports to represent the cutting edge of urban sophistication. When he attacks his publisher after he is fired over a controversial, unflattering cartoon of the pope, Cantrell buys a rundown old mansion and with his beautiful cinematographer wife, Cam, and young son, Wiley retreats to his ancestral roots near Chapel Hill, N.C., to lick his wounds. While he begins the restoration of the historic manor house, Cam resumes her career and becomes the breadwinner. On his home turf, Cantrell is thrown back into conflict with his ogreish paternal grandmother, Mama Lucy, and the pulpy tale bounces between Pick's first-person narration of his domestic struggles (Cam is resentful of his granny and practically everything else), and Mama Lucy's third-person recollections of the bloody cotton mill strikes of 1934. Pick and Cam's conflicts are pure soap opera, and Pick's antipathy for Mama Lucy is too petty to generate real empathy, but the intriguing peeks into history are well worth suffering for. 7-city author tour. (Oct.) Forecast: Advance hype and an impressive roster of blurbers Pat Conroy, AnneRivers Siddons, Rick Bragg, Joe Klein and Kaye Gibbons, among others should move this title. Aimed point-blank at Conroy readers, it even sports jacket art by Conroy's cover artist, Wendell Minor. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Fired from his job as political cartoonist for the New York Sun, Pick Cantrell returns, with dread in his heart, to his North Carolina roots to take the barbs of his typically Southern family for being uppity and leaving home in the first place. Chief among his critics is his paternal grandmother, Mama Lucy, whose vitriolic tongue has shaped the lives of her progeny for as long as Pick can remember. Although he falls victim to her indictments, he eventually makes his peace and learns of her colorful past in the bargain. A Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist and creator of the comic strip KUDZU, Marlette has written a first novel based on tidbits of family lore, primarily concerning his grandmother Gracie Pickard, whose involvement in the bloody Great Textile Strike of 1934 inspired his portrait of Mama Lucy. This work of oppression, rebellion, family tradition, love, and death sheds light on a little-known chapter of North Carolina history and contains just the right mix of humor and dignity. Recommended for all public libraries. Thomas L. Kilpatrick, Southern Illinois Univ., Carbondale Lib. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060505219
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 11/5/2002
  • Series: Harper Perennial Series
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 944,539
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Doug Marlette is a Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist. He lives in North Carolina with his wife and son. The Bridge is his first novel.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

A Gift for Pissing People Off

The cartoon showed a close-up of the pope wearing a button emblazoned with the words "No Women Priests." An arrow pointed from the inscription "Upon This Rock I Will Build My Church" to his forehead. Once I hit upon the idea, I drew it up quickly, faxed a copy to the Long Island office, sent the original to production by messenger, and forgot about it until it ran the next day in both the city and island editions of the Sun, as all my cartoons did. I knew it was a decent lick — not especially outrageous by my lights, but effective. After two decades drawing political cartoons it was pretty much second nature to me, and I could usually feel how they were going to land. And though I knew I'd drawn cartoons with more raw voltage, more reader irritation potential per square inch, I felt pretty good about this one.

It was a Pick Cantrell cartoon all right. It said what I wanted to say and nobody else would say it quite that way. I thought it would set off some tremors and rearrange the landscape a bit. Was it good for me? That's the only question any artist can ask himself about his work. The earth moved all right. But I didn't anticipate all the aftershocks.

As a political cartoonist, I have a gift for pissing people off. I receive hate mail on a regular basis, and sometimes death threats. The raw, visceral quality in my work comes naturally to me and has always surprised me. Sometimes it feels as if I'm merely a conduit, channeling somebody else's anger and attitude. My talent is like a pit bull on a verylong leash, and each day when I take it out for a stroll I hold on for dear life.

In fact, there has always been something "non sequitur" about my drawings, as if their edge and meanness do not follow logically from me and my personality. "You don't look like your drawings," readers often comment upon first meeting me. "I always pictured you as short, dark, and bearded." My work seems angry, anarchistic, dangerous. But "sweet" was the word I most often heard used to describe me personally. On the surface I seem mild-mannered and easygoing. Physically, I am lanky, standing six-feet, two inches, blond, and blue-eyed, with the countenance of a child. Even now, as the crow's-feet impinge, and my hairline recedes, and my chins multiply, I appear open-faced, and harmless, like some Sunbelt Rotarian. I feel like an assassin. "Man, that was a mean cartoon," say readers. "Thank you," I reply. "You're just saying that."

Had I not come of age in the tumultuous sixties I probably would have wound up drawing a comic strip about cats. But the temper of those times set off something in me that sought expression in political cartoons. Bad times for the Republic are great times for satire.

I went to college on a football scholarship at a time when campuses across the nation were in upheaval over the war in Vietnam. Even a sleepy college town like Tallahassee was ablaze with insurrection when I arrived my freshman year at Florida State. Mass demonstrations, ROTC building takeovers, and bomb threats were nearly daily occurrences at the "Berkeley of the South." You could not pass through the student union without being accosted, harangued, and leafleted by partisans from SDS to Campus Crusade for Christ. After the dullness of my hometown, the volatility of campus life was thrilling, even more bracing than the drills and calisthenics I endured at afternoon practice.

Freshman year brought two catastrophic personal blows that would change my life in ways I had never dreamed. First, my mother died, just before my eighteenth birthday. Not long after, I injured my knee badly during a game. I would never be able to play football again. Whether or not these two events were connected I'll never know, but in some perverse way, they seemed serendipitous. My mother's death fueled my rage. And with the knee injury I lost my identity as an athlete, honed over the previous four years. I kept my scholarship, but with neither my mother nor football to anchor me I was bereft and directionless and immediately began looking beyond the classroom for an outlet for my numerous frustrations. Art became a way to hold on to the woman who had first encouraged my talents. I signed up for courses in still life and figure drawing and I soon started doodling caricatures of campus celebrities and prominent politicians in the margins of my notebooks and sketchpads. After a friend showed my satirical sketches to the editor of the student newspaper, the Seminole, I became the political cartoonist for the antiwar campus daily. I had found a home.

The newsroom, chock-full of bright, funny student radicals, was combustible. My work exploded. I drew three cartoons a week for the rest of my college days, and made a name for myself in the arena of opinion and ideas in a way my football exploits never had afforded me. My cartoons lampooned everyone from state legislators to the president of the university to the president of the United States. When Disney announced plans to build Disney World in the middle of Florida's orange groves, I drew a cartoon showing a Mickey Mouse in tourist getup asking impoverished migrant workers, "Which way to the Magic Kingdom?" It caught the attention of editors from the St. Petersburg and Miami newspapers, both of whom reprinted it and expressed interest in hiring me after graduation. I was on my way.

Six months out of college, after being lucky enough to draw a high number in the first draft lottery, thus obviating my need to choose between jail and Canada, and after a brief stint working night paste-up at...

The Bridge. Copyright © by Doug Marlette. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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First Chapter

Chapter One

A Gift for Pissing People Off

The cartoon showed a close-up of the pope wearing a button emblazoned with the words "No Women Priests." An arrow pointed from the inscription "Upon This Rock I Will Build My Church" to his forehead. Once I hit upon the idea, I drew it up quickly, faxed a copy to the Long Island office, sent the original to production by messenger, and forgot about it until it ran the next day in both the city and island editions of the Sun, as all my cartoons did. I knew it was a decent lick -- not especially outrageous by my lights, but effective. After two decades drawing political cartoons it was pretty much second nature to me, and I could usually feel how they were going to land. And though I knew I'd drawn cartoons with more raw voltage, more reader irritation potential per square inch, I felt pretty good about this one.

It was a Pick Cantrell cartoon all right. It said what I wanted to say and nobody else would say it quite that way. I thought it would set off some tremors and rearrange the landscape a bit. Was it good for me? That's the only question any artist can ask himself about his work. The earth moved all right. But I didn't anticipate all the aftershocks.

As a political cartoonist, I have a gift for pissing people off. I receive hate mail on a regular basis, and sometimes death threats. The raw, visceral quality in my work comes naturally to me and has always surprised me. Sometimes it feels as if I'm merely a conduit, channeling somebody else's anger and attitude. My talent is like a pit bull on a verylong leash, and each day when I take it out for a stroll I hold on for dear life.

In fact, there has always been something "non sequitur" about my drawings, as if their edge and meanness do not follow logically from me and my personality. "You don't look like your drawings," readers often comment upon first meeting me. "I always pictured you as short, dark, and bearded." My work seems angry, anarchistic, dangerous. But "sweet" was the word I most often heard used to describe me personally. On the surface I seem mild-mannered and easygoing. Physically, I am lanky, standing six-feet, two inches, blond, and blue-eyed, with the countenance of a child. Even now, as the crow's-feet impinge, and my hairline recedes, and my chins multiply, I appear open-faced, and harmless, like some Sunbelt Rotarian. I feel like an assassin. "Man, that was a mean cartoon," say readers. "Thank you," I reply. "You're just saying that."

Had I not come of age in the tumultuous sixties I probably would have wound up drawing a comic strip about cats. But the temper of those times set off something in me that sought expression in political cartoons. Bad times for the Republic are great times for satire.

I went to college on a football scholarship at a time when campuses across the nation were in upheaval over the war in Vietnam. Even a sleepy college town like Tallahassee was ablaze with insurrection when I arrived my freshman year at Florida State. Mass demonstrations, ROTC building takeovers, and bomb threats were nearly daily occurrences at the "Berkeley of the South." You could not pass through the student union without being accosted, harangued, and leafleted by partisans from SDS to Campus Crusade for Christ. After the dullness of my hometown, the volatility of campus life was thrilling, even more bracing than the drills and calisthenics I endured at afternoon practice.

Freshman year brought two catastrophic personal blows that would change my life in ways I had never dreamed. First, my mother died, just before my eighteenth birthday. Not long after, I injured my knee badly during a game. I would never be able to play football again. Whether or not these two events were connected I'll never know, but in some perverse way, they seemed serendipitous. My mother's death fueled my rage. And with the knee injury I lost my identity as an athlete, honed over the previous four years. I kept my scholarship, but with neither my mother nor football to anchor me I was bereft and directionless and immediately began looking beyond the classroom for an outlet for my numerous frustrations. Art became a way to hold on to the woman who had first encouraged my talents. I signed up for courses in still life and figure drawing and I soon started doodling caricatures of campus celebrities and prominent politicians in the margins of my notebooks and sketchpads. After a friend showed my satirical sketches to the editor of the student newspaper, the Seminole, I became the political cartoonist for the antiwar campus daily. I had found a home.

The newsroom, chock-full of bright, funny student radicals, was combustible. My work exploded. I drew three cartoons a week for the rest of my college days, and made a name for myself in the arena of opinion and ideas in a way my football exploits never had afforded me. My cartoons lampooned everyone from state legislators to the president of the university to the president of the United States. When Disney announced plans to build Disney World in the middle of Florida's orange groves, I drew a cartoon showing a Mickey Mouse in tourist getup asking impoverished migrant workers, "Which way to the Magic Kingdom?" It caught the attention of editors from the St. Petersburg and Miami newspapers, both of whom reprinted it and expressed interest in hiring me after graduation. I was on my way.

Six months out of college, after being lucky enough to draw a high number in the first draft lottery, thus obviating my need to choose between jail and Canada, and after a brief stint working night paste-up at...

The Bridge. Copyright © by Doug Marlette. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Interviews & Essays

Exclusive Author Essay
My grandmother -- Mama Gracie, we called her -- was a pistol. She dipped snuff, packed heat (in the form of a .38 Smith & Wesson, which she carried in her purse), and sowed seeds of sedition among her kinfolk with as much commitment and passion as other grandmothers bring to planting petunias. A master of manipulation who could weep at will, a carnival sideshow of hysterical symptoms, dreams, visions, and premonitions, she was a tour guide of the emotions, specializing in the guilt trip -- and we were all frequent fliers.

Like Pick Cantrell, The Bridge's protagonist, I grew up in the small-town South and for most of my adult life have made a nuisance of myself (and a fairly decent living) penning political cartoons that appear on the editorial pages of a number of American newspapers. Years ago, at a family reunion, I overheard something never before mentioned in the stories passed around the picnic tables along with the biscuits and sweet tea: I learned that my grandmother had been bayoneted by a national guardsman in a mill strike during the Depression. That this harridan who had so haunted my childhood was once a heroine of the labor movement -- a cause by then close to my liberal Democrat bleeding heart -- was as incomprehensible to me as finding calamari on the menu of a barbecue joint or the Bolshoi performing at the Grand Ole Opry.

Having weathered for decades Mama Gracie's emotional firestorms, I immediately empathized with the guardsman. I imagined my grandmother in her prime, physically formidable (and with a full set of teeth), loosing on the beleaguered young man the full force of her volcanic temper. I felt for him. In fact, on more than one occasion I'd wished for a bayonet myself.

Bewildered, I asked around, but my family was as in the dark as I was. Years later, after a stint at New York Newsday, we returned to North Carolina, this time to Hillsborough. We bought a historic house called Burnside, and immediately I began to feel a powerful attachment to the place. Over the next few months I learned more about the town and discovered that my family had deep roots here, that my grandmother had been born here, that my grandfather had worked as deputy sheriff at the courthouse not 200 yards from our front door, and that he and Mama Gracie had met and married while working in the cotton mills on the other side of town. My forebears were "lintheads," a term given then to poor whites because of the cotton dust that collected in their hair after long days toiling in the weave room. Although they'd worked less than a mile from where we now lived, their world was light-years from Burnside.

Even more shocking than the bayoneting or the deep roots my family had set down in town was the fact that the original owner of our new home had financed the textile mill where my grandmother was stabbed. But there were still more surprises in store.

A few months later at a book signing in Charlotte, a distant cousin pulled me aside and handed me an old, tattered pamphlet, bearing the title Burlington Dynamite Plot. The author was Walt Pickard, Mama Gracie's brother and my great-uncle. In it he described a conspiracy by the mill owners to dynamite their own property in order to frame and jail union leaders.

A short time later, I found in a textbook on the cotton mill culture the first documented evidence of the role my grandmother played in the General Textile Strike of 1934, the largest worker walkout in American labor history up to that time.

Soon it seemed local historians were lining up to talk to me about the notorious Gracie Pickard. My grandmother, however, was less than thrilled with her newfound celebrity. As feisty as ever in her late 80s, she threatened to sue the book's publishers for using her name without permission.

From these threads of family history my novel, The Bridge, was woven. It is a tale of love and betrayal, forbidden passions and long-buried secrets, of one man's struggle with his heritage and with himself -- and the ancient bridge where past and present meet.

But most intriguing to me personally as I wrote this book was the possibility that I had come by my rebellious genes honestly, that they had jumped a generation, and that I was more like my crotchety, cantankerous grandmother than I ever dared to think. (Doug Marlette)

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Reading Group Guide

Winner of the SEBA 2002 (Fiction) Book of the Year Award
Introduction"I thought about what a complex and difficult woman Mama Lucy had been and how only in her final days did I get a real sense of her life and all that she had gone through and how it had shaped the woman we all, in our arrogance and ignorance, thought we knew..." Celebrated political cartoonist Pick Cantrell returns to his North Carolina roots in a cloud of shame, having lost his job with a New York City newspaper. When he relocates with his family to an historic home in the town of Eno, he has no way of knowing that he has placed himself firmly in the midst of his family's turbulent history. Facing more than just his state of unemployment, Pick confronts his family, and in particular Mama Lucy, the grandmother he has despised since childhood. As he labors to restore Oaklawn to its former glory, Pick learns that the house -- like much in and around Eno -- played a part in his family's past. This is just one of the secrets that come to light as he forges a tentative relationship with Mama Lucy, and she shares her remarkable story. "The notion that my people, the Cantrells and Barlows, whom I had always thought of as so very conservative, and boring, dull as dust, could possibly have produced any colorful renegades or radicals of historical significance -- and that my grandmother, Mama Lucy, with her hair curlers and Coke bottle spittoon, could be one of them -- set my mind reeling." Even as Mama Lucy's memories spin into a spellbinding family legacy -- allowing him a cherished glimpse into the past and an unadorned view of thecircumstances that have shaped his grandmother's character -- Pick confronts the state of his own life, career, and crumbling marriage. In flashbacks intertwined with the story's narrative, Mama Lucy recounts her part in the General Textile Strike of 1934, her role in the changing structure of the South, the man she loved and with whom she was denied a future, the deaths of her best friend and brother, and the resentment and misunderstanding that marred her marriage. As the social history of the region comes alive, as poignant personal memories are relived once again, as a relationship is forged across generations, Pick and Mama Lucy bridge the gap between past and present. Questions for Discussion
  • The author opens the novel with a description of his grandmother: "I knew only the Holy Terror version of my grandmother, the version I grew up with, the blue-haired ayatollah who dominated her family and frightened and humiliated me as a child" (page 1). Did this description of Mama Lucy color your perception of her? Did your view change as the story progressed? Why do you think the author chose to open the narrative with such a harsh depiction of Mama Lucy?
  • Pick has long harbored resentment against Mama Lucy for what he perceived as her part in his mother's incarceration in a mental institution and subsequent death. In one instance he states that Mama Lucy "truly didn't understand why I was stand-offish or why I held her treatment of my mother against her" (page 84). Do you, like Pick, believe that this is true?
  • "Even as my work made the house itself more livable, Cam and I grew farther apart. It almost seemed as though there was an inverse relationship between the state of the house and that of our marriage" (page 153). How does the restoration of Oaklawn play out in the story? What is the significance of its having once been Spencer Webb's house?
  • Class distinction plays a large part in the story, particularly between the mill owners and the lintheads in the 1930s. In what ways is history repeating itself with the current generation? In contrast, how has the mold been broken?
  • Pick is often harsh with Mama Lucy, particularly when he makes reference to her daughter Ruth Ann's suicide. Does she deserve such treatment?
  • When Sandy first gives him the booklet written by Davis Barlow recounting the details of the Burlington Dynamite Plot, Pick find himself unexpectedly moved. "It took my breath away. It was the voice of my people, of the Barlows and Cantrells, of the lintheads, of Karl Marx and Woody Guthrie and the prophet Jeremiah all rolled into one. It was my grandmother's voice, my daddy's, my own.... It called to me from across the decades" (page 93). Why is he so moved by the booklet? What does it represent to him?
  • In talking to Mama Lucy about the past, Pick sees an artistic beauty in her ability to recall in vivid detail the significant emotional events of her life. "Her visual gifts were quite profound.... She had the eye and ear of an artist or poet, if not the means of expression." He contemplates that "for the first time I was beginning to see myself in my grandmother and to recognize my own reflection in her and her gifts and I was astonished at the thought that I might have inherited that which I most valued in myself from my childhood nemesis" (page 220). How does he react when he realizes that he might have inherited his artistic ability from Mama Lucy?
  • What did you think was the most compelling scene in The Bridge? Why? How is this scene significant to the story?
  • In one instance Pick says to Mama Lucy about his mother, "'I think her bad leg reminded you of somebody you didn't want to be reminded of. I think she reminded you of Annie Laura. And you held that against her'" (pg 257). Do you agree with Pick? Do you believe Mama Lucy did not like his mother? How has this shaped Pick's character and affected his life?
  • When she finally learns the truth about Annie Laura's death from Jake Satterfield, Mama Lucy says to Pick about Dalton Earl, "He tried to tell me his side of the story. But I wouldn't hear it. I knowed how I seen it and that was the only way to see it. I reckon after losin' the two people I loved most in this world I was lookin' for someone to blame.... But I see now it won't him I was mad at" (366). What is Mama Lucy referring to? Who was she mad at, and why?
  • Discuss the significance of the novel's title. How does the symbolism of "the bridge" play out in the story?
  • One reviewer stated that The Bridge "takes some good satirical pokes at 21st-century life along the way." To what do you think the reviewer is referring? Provide some examples from the story.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 20 )
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(11)

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Sort by: Showing all of 20 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 2, 2002

    A Great New Southern Novel

    Doug Marlette has done it all - characters you really care about, humor, history, politics, family. From the very first the reader is drawn into the complex relationships of this Southern family only to discover no one is exactly who they seemed. Loved the neer-do-well cousins! The local characters were just 'off' enough to be fun but not too over the wall to be believable. What a great seat we had while we watched Pick and his grandmother Lucy learn about each other. How have the critics missed this novel? Hope it comes out in paper so our book group can discuss it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2002

    This is 5 Stars Plus!

    This is a terrific story within a story! As a Southerner and former resident of both North Carolina and South Carolina, I cannot imagine anyone who has lived in the SE giving this book less than 5 stars. Most of it is true and the rest is well within the bounds of reasonable. Although, I am sure it has changed since I was last there in 1990, Hillsborough, N.C. is a wonderful little town, with a personality uniquely its own. Just as things in the present, like Sept. 11 for example, surprise us, so there are surprising things we find out about the past. The lives of those often called 'ordinary working people' have never been so dull as others or even those 'ordinary working people' sometimes think.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2001

    THE TRUTH FINALLY TOLD

    I HEARD AN INTERVIEW WITH DOUD MARLETTE ON THE BOB AND SHERI SHOW. BEING AN EX RESIDENT IN N.C. MYSELF, I WAS VERY INTERESTED IN IT , WHEN THEY TALKED ABOUT THE MILLS. I GOT THE BOOK FROM MY HUSBAND FOR MY BIRTHDAY. ONCE I STARTED READING IT, IT WAS HARD TO STOP. WELL WRITEN, MY HATS OFF TO DOUG, FOR TELLING THE STORY THAT NEEDED TO BE TOLD. BEING AN EX MILL WORKER FOR A SHORT WHILE, I CAN IDENTIFY WITH HOW THE WORKERS IN 1934 FELT. AS OF 1989 NOT MUCH HAS CHANGED IN THE MILL INDUSTRY. THEY STILL OVER WORK YOU, AND USE SCARE TACTICS, TO KEEP YOUR PRODUCTION UP TO PAR.I WOULD RECOMMEND THE BRIDGE TO EVERYONE I KNOW , IM SURE IT WILL HIT HOME TO ALL OF US. THANK YOU DOUG MARLETTE , FOR THIS WONDERFUL WALK BACK IN TIME. YOU MAKE ALSO MAKE US REALIZE HOW IMPORTANT FAMILY IS ALSO, WITHOUT THEM WE ARE JUST FLOATING THRU LIFE, SO LET THEIR MISTAKES, TEACH US TO FORGIVE AND FORGET.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 17, 2001

    Great!

    Wicked, witty, and warm are not three words I normally use together, but somehow all three perfectly describe The Bridge. Kudos to Doug Marlette for a delicious Southern fried tale of true grit and grits! Natalie Steinberg Huntington, Long Island

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 3, 2001

    An engrossing Southern novel

    The cartoonist Pick Cantrell and his difficult grandmother, Mama Lucy, are the stars of this vast cast of Southern characters in this semi-historical story. How family secrets are brought to light and how the survivors learn to live and love together held my interest to the end. I strongly advise this book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 8, 2001

    VOICES OF TRUTH

    One of the main things I look for in a novel is the 'voice' that propels and pervades the storytelling. Marlette's THE BRIDGE matches character and voice perfectly. Main character and narrator Pick Cantrell looks at the world through the eye of a cartoonist, but this rich novel is far from being a cartoon. In the contemporary settings, Pick 'picks' his images of the people around him. We see them focused through his 'lens.' Through this narrative device, we become involved with well-developed characters who happen to have a cartoonist's microscope run over their quirks, making them all the more fascinating. This extra-dimension to the writing is true to Pick's own character voice and a tribute to Marlette's skill as a creative artist. Not only is the whole scope of the story adroitly presented, but his sentences are just loaded with little 'cartoonist concepts' that make me laugh out loud. Pick's reference to his family reunion as a 'coagulation' is a brillian image of bloodlines clotting around the picnic table. Everyone who has ever been to a family reunion knows exactly what he means. But, this novel is not simply Pick Cantrell's story and voice. There lies within it a greater gift of truth: giving 'voice' to the 'voiceless.' The mill workers of this country whose struggle was all but lost to history's emphasis on the New Deal and the rise of fascist Germany also have a story to tell. That voice is embedded in Mama Lucy, and Marlette has created a bridge back to a forgotten past that touches us all. It is THE BRIDGE which I hope many, many readers will cross.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 7, 2001

    Heartwarming tale of family, reconciliation, unions and reunions

    Ever since I read Doug Marlette's first essay in Esquire, I have been hoping he would create a book filled with his graceful, evocative prose. The Bridge exceeded my hopes. He writes with the eye of an artist and the heart of a poet. Protagonist Pick Cantrell, like Marlette, is a political cartoonist, therefore doomed to feel always like a smart-aleck and an overly sensitive outsider. This is an ideal narrator for a story of families, secrets, and healing. 'Mama Lucy,' the terrifying matriarch, turns out to be the source of some of Pick's own strength and heart. And Pick's efforts to uncover his family history turn out to tell all of us something about our own history as workers, employers, and Americans. Moving, insightful, simply outstanding.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 12, 2001

    Pat Conroy is Right - You Must Read This Book

    For most people, one great talent would be enough For Doug Marlette, it's just a starting point. Doug Marlette is a Pulitzer-Prize winning editorial cartoonist. And he may be even better known as the author of Kudzu, the comic strip that appears daily in dozens of newspapers. But if his first novel, The Bridge, is any indication, Marlette's greatest talent may be as a novelist. This is a book you can't put down, a book that leaves you torn between savoring every page and hurrying through to get to the outcome. The Bridge is a semi-autobigraphical tale that features a gripping story of conflict and violence in North Carolina's not-too-distant textile past. But just as importantly, it is a story of self-discovery and reconciliation. It is a story about people for whom you come to care deeply. I wept for the last 50 pages. Some books are great reads. A few books are not only great reads but they also make you think about how you live your life. The Bridge is such a book. The novelist Pat Conroy says on the jacket cover that The Bridge is the best first novel to come out of North Carolina since Look Homeward Angel. Pat Controy was right.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 8, 2001

    Funny, Smart and Engaging

    I found THE BRIDGE captivating. Marlette's prose, even at its most lyrical, has a straightforward immediacy to it that kept me engrossed, turning pages until well past my bedtime. I couldn't put the thing down. His mission is an ambitious one--create a story that is not only fiction but also semi-autobiographical and historical--and the jumping from past to present could, in the hands of a less-skilled author, frustrate a reader. But Marlette's rhythm keeps it together. Given the fact that Marlette is a cartoonist like his protagonist, Pick Cantrell, Pick could come across as self-serving. Yet Pick is neither romanticized nor glamorized but depicted with all his human weakness. Both Marlette and Pick are editorial cartoonists with similar geographical and, we learn, familial histories. Maybe this is why the book seems so poetic, its phrases able to stand alone--in some ways editorial cartoons are like poetry, using few words but juxtaposing them with creative, surprising images to convey an original message. The collocation of Pick's life with that of his grandmother accomplishes the same task. But unlike a cartoon, the book maintains the roundness of its characters when drawing parallels between them. Marlette's cartoonist skills as an image-builder, a message-sender, translate beautifully onto the page. This is what is most impressive about the book as a first novel, and this is why it succeeds.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2001

    Bridge

    The prepublication hype on this one was big and meant to impress. Even the title, THE BRIDGE, suggests that one is about to settle into a weighty work of fiction. What THE BRIDGE in fact delivers is fast food: cheap and heavy with a bad aftertaste. The author tries to deliver on what might have been an important story, that of the millworkers' struggle to form a union in the 1930s, but he just doesn't have the skill to make it come to life. Instead he diverts us with a dull rendering of his personal journey to self-discovery -- and folks, it ain't much of a trip. This one's a clunker. I'm a fan of Marlette's cartoons. Let's hope he gets back to them soon.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 9, 2001

    get this book!

    Wicked, witty, and warm are not three words I normally Wicked, witty, and warm are not three words I normally use together, but somehow all three perfectly describe The Bridge. Kudos to Doug Marlette for a delicious Southern fried tale of true grit and grits!use together, but somehow all three perfectly describe The Bridge. Kudos to Doug Marlette for a delicious Southern fried tale of true grit and grits!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 9, 2001

    wow

    Doug Marlette's first novel took me totally by surprise. A publisher friend of mine sent me a copy with a pile of other 'new releases' and I was yawning through one after another when I happened to open The Bridge. I should really be angry with Mr. Marlette. It's because of him (I stayed up all night reading his book) that I looked like hell at my board meeting the next morning. But it was worth it! He's a welcome new Southern voice and a breath of fresh air after so many tired clunkers by Eudora Welty wannabes. My congratulations!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 7, 2001

    A GRIM CARTOON

    This is a dark, convoluted first novel from political cartoonist, Doug Marlette. The protagonist, a political cartoonist, like, duh, Marlette himself, goes home to wrestle with the devils of his cracker origins, in particular, the obstreporous Mama Lucy, his grandmother. To say that this is an autobiographical novel is to be entirely too coy -- it reads like a dayrunner of Marlette's career. What it offers has little to do with creative fiction -- it's more like a middle school slam book taking all of Pick Cantrell's numerous adversaries to task. It's very difficult to care about a character who whines victim at every turn, and takes no responsibility for his own bad behaviour. I think we are meant to see Pick as a tortured genious. Instead what we get is a wingeing redneck with a big chip on his shoulder, wallowing in pages of dialogue with his carping wife, and valiantly deflecting the overtures of a good looking seductress in 'stylish biking tops'. The good little subplot, of his grandmother's valiant role in the mill uprisings in depression era North Carolina, is rushed through and concluded in a clunky, connect the dots finale. Mainly, we spend entirely too much time with the masturbatory musings of a guy who you wouldn't want to sit next to on a plane. Sorry to sound so hostile. I bought the book on the strength of the glowing reviews on this site, and pre-ordered. Should've realized the five star reviews came from folks who had advance copies, ie Marlette's friends. Another tip off should've been that the most highly touted blurb on the cover came from Pat Conroy, whom we discover on reading Marlette's acknowledgements, is the author's best friend. I feel duped, oversold, and gypped. Save yourself. Don't be suckered into buying this one.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 9, 2001

    Bridge

    Doug Marlette's comic strip KUDZU has been a guilty pleasure of mine for years. Therefore I was looking forward to his first novel, and was happy to see it well reviewed. However, having just finished the book, I am astonished that it's garnered such lavish praise. Is it possible that others weren't as totally turned off as I by this bad soap opera of a book? It seems to be a festering nest of little hatreds, and the lead character, Pick Cantrell, is constantly railing and blustering at everyone from his poor relations to his editors in New York and North Carolina, riled by what appears to be their failure to recognize his massive talent and professional audacity. There is something very endearing about Mama Lucy, his crotchety old grandmother and the reluctant heroine of the textile mill strikes of the thirties, and for this one must give Marlette credit. However, when the author impatiently shifts from Lucy's story back into Pick's, there is a jarring shift in tone and content. His wife comes across as a browbeating control freak, and naturally Pick can't help but be tempted by a the local porn king's wife, who comes onto him with all the finesse of an 'Apartment 3G ' vixen...(well, I guess that's his frame of reference...) Anyway, I won't blow the outcome of this embarrassing will-he -or-won't-he? subplot for anyone who cares. It just seems astonishing that anyone could still be writhing from the perceived injustices of a perceived American caste system in this day, and in this age, when there is soooo much more at issue in this world. I also found the homophobic gerbil joke distasteful and disturbing...I thought Pick was supposed to be a champion of the disenfranchised, but the author's sympathies don't seem to extend much beyond his own backyard. There are so many fine books out there -- why settle for this dreck?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 8, 2001

    The bridge home...

    It doesn¿t always take a terrorist attack to change a life. Mine was changed before our national tragedy in a way I never expected by a book called ¿The Bridge.¿ I don¿t know how or when it happened, but somewhere in Doug Marlette¿s valentine to family and the South, I was changed. Somehow his childhood was my childhood and his family became mine and the emotions and feelings and sensations of life and love and transitions became too much. I put down the book and began rebuilding the broken bridge with my own distant, disengaged family. ¿The Bridge¿ tells tales of family secrets--hidden in attics and covered with cobwebs. It explores the differences of poor and the privileged, the talented and the not, the North and the South, the seemingly lucky ones who escaped their beginnings and their cousins who did not. It¿s a study of coming home and of jealousy, prejudice, courage and the trials of humanity. It helped me understand myself and people I¿ve misunderstood for years. The book also tells the true but mostly unreported story of a horrible and hearbreaking textile war in our country and the heroics of the worker struggles Norma Rae would covet. Beyond all that, it¿s intriguing to read ¿The Bridge¿ to watch a talented cartoonist twist his already twisted mind to become a novelist. How does a guy who has drawn wonderful squiggley cartoons and comic strips and exploited the power of the picture and the punchline for his whole life create something that¿s only words? Well, he paints word pictures, and he does it in a way that is beautiful and moving. ¿The Bridge¿ touched those painful parts of my heart and soul that were aching without my knowing. The book made me feel more human. Now, almost over the coma I¿ve been in since September 11, I¿m going to read the book again.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2001

    Bridge

    I love good southern writers, and some of my favorites recommended this one...WHY, I DON'T KNOW! None of these characters are people you want to spend time with, and the plot is sluggish and uneventful. Other readers seem to like the story of the mill strikes, but it seemed like it was kind of strung together as an afterthought. What the author seems to be most interested in is himself, and I personally found the character of Pick to be pretty obnoxious and conceited. You kind of realize why nobody else in the book can abide him. It was hard to stay with it to the end, but I wanted to get my money's worth. Guess what? Anyway if you have to have it, at least wait a few months and I'm sure you'll find lots of copies on the bargain table.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 12, 2001

    Marlette's 'The Bridge' is a labor of love

    The Bridge is one of the best novels to come out of the South in years. It tells the story of Pick Cantrell, a successful newspaper columnist in New York, who loses his job and returns to his native North Carolina. He buys and restores an old house in Eno, a dying mill village and the fictional backdrop for the real story behind The Bridge. It is there that Cantrell comes face-to-face with his family and boyhood nemesis, his 90-year-old, domineering grandmother, Mama Lucy. As Pick begins to unearth his family's past, he learns that Mama Lucy had worked in the town's mills and been bayoneted by guardsmen during a massive uprising in the thirties. He begins coaxing the story of what happened and learns, along the way, to love the woman he grew up despising. In reality, the failure of the National Industrial Recovery Act --signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt only a year earlier-- prompted more than 400,000 mill workers, including thousands from central North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, to walk off their jobs on Sept. 15, 1934. While Southern workers became a force to be reckoned with, management and the National Guard crushed the strike only three weeks later. Thousands of workers were blacklisted, and some were murdered. The whole thing was forgotten, and the word 'union' became a dirty word in the South. But their story --and that of the mill owners who exploited them and their communities-- is resurrected in Mama Lucy and her experiences as a worker, wife, mother, and matriarch. Her story is a testament to the values and conditions which shaped Southern mill villages and the families that worked in them for generations to come. Marlette deftly strikes a delicate balance between humor and didacticism, between the intimate Cantrell family portrait and one of workers who dared to confront mill owners and abominable working conditions --workers whose history has been nearly erased. Ultimately, Marlette's novel is a bridge in and of itself --from past to present, from transgression to forgiveness. Every reader will bring to it a different set of experiences and expectations but will undoubtedly take away a better world view, for at its heart lies a beautiful family portrait and an unforgettable lesson about the strength of the human spirit.

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    Posted November 12, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 10, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 11, 2009

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