cover image Bridge of Clay

Bridge of Clay

Markus Zusak. Knopf, $26.00 (544p) ISBN 978-0-375-84559-8

This exquisitely written multigenerational family saga by Zusak (The Book Thief), his first novel in 13 years, weaves the story of a missing father and a bridge-building brother. The five Dunbar brothers are beholden to only themselves after the death of their mother and abandonment by their father (“Our mother was dead./ Our father had fled”). Matthew, the eldest, puts their story to paper by way of “the old TW,” a typewriter: “Let me tell you about our brother./ The fourth Dunbar boy named Clay./ Everything happened to him./ We were all of us changed through him.” Slipping back and forth in time, the book maps a complex history: grown and married with two children, Matthew recounts their mother’s immigration to the United States at age 18, their father’s upbringing and first marriage, and young life in the chaotic, loving Dunbar household of five boys—then devastation after their father disappears. The deftly woven threads build tension as Zusak’s skillful use of foreshadowing and symbolism brings long-held secrets to the surface. With heft and historical scope, Zusak creates a sensitively rendered tale of loss, grief, and guilt’s manifestations. Ages 14–up. [em](Oct.) [/em]