Monday, December 3, 2012

Book Review: The Bridge, by Karen Kingsbury (First Review for The 2012 Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge)





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Here's my first review for this year!



The Bridge
Karen Kingsbury
Hardcover, 258 pages
Howard Books
October 23, 2012
Christmas Romance, Christian Fiction



This Christmas story from the renowned Christian author, Karen Kingsbury, had been on my wish list, as well as my TBR pile, since I first found out about it in October.  The cover, of course, drew me in right away!  Besides, I had never gotten around to reading one of Kingsbury's books, despite having promised myself to do so, time and time again.  Furthermore, I wanted to kick off this year's Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge with this book.  So it was with much excitement that I tore open the Amazon package, and excitedly pulled the book out.  I was surprised at its size.  I must admit that I had been expecting a larger hardcover.  From the size alone, I would say this book is really a novella, not a novel.

Molly Allen and Ryan Kelly are certainly a very appealing couple; they both have dreams of making it big in the musical world -- she as a violinist, playing in an orchestra, and he as a guitarist for a country music band.  They first meet at Belmont University, in Franklin, Tennessee, and immediately hit if off, in spite of their very different backgrounds.  Molly's father expects her to take over his financial empire, and marry Preston Millington, whom Molly has known all her life, but considers only a friend.  Ryan, on the other hand, is expected to marry his high school sweetheart (whom the author never names), settling down to teach music in a high school in Carthage, Mississippi.

The two often meet at a bookstore they consider a very special place -- "The Bridge", owned by Charlie and Donna Barton, a middle-aged couple; it has a reputation for bringing together people of all walks of life, and the owners have always made sure to provide a warm, welcoming environment.  Charlie, the bookseller, is even known to be especially generous to people who are unable to afford a special book.      

Five years later, Molly is living her own life, out from under her father's wing, in Portland, Oregon, while Ryan is currently unemployed, after having toured extensively with a hot country band.  A misunderstanding had torn them apart, but now, because of a crisis involving their beloved bookstore, they will be brought together again...

In spite of loving the characters, and the initial premise of this tale, I have to conclude that I am somewhat disappointed.  This is definitely a novella, and a very predictable one at that.  There are definite echoes of that annual Christmas film classic, "It's A Wonderful Life", since one of the characters, trapped by tragic financial circumstances, considers suicide as an option.  Of course, everyone rallies around this character, including the reunited lovers, who will, as is to be expected, resolve their misunderstanding (which is based on a barely-believable turn of events) in the process.  There will be a major miracle, as well as the minor one of Ryan and Molly.  It's all very contrived, and there are no surprises.

I didn't read any reviews of this book before I bought it.  I definitely wish I had, because I wouldn't have purchased it.  In spite of my love for these characters, I do think that they lack the necessary depth.  The book should, quite simply, have been much longer.  Kingsbury should have given the reader more background for the romance between Molly and Ryan.  They knew each other for two years, during college.  There should have been more scenes throwing them together, giving more opportunities for the reader to get to know them better.  I would also have appreciated seeing them in at least one argument.  Every couple argues, even those in romance novels!  The fact that they never did, along with the fact that they parted ways so easily, without any fuss, made their relationship, as well as their eventual reunion, a lot less realistic than it could have been. 

I was also disappointed by the lack of depth in the characters of Charlie and Donna Barton.  If they and their bookstore were so special, the reader should have been witness to several lengthier interactions of Charlie, as well as Donna, with their customers.  Charlie did keep a scrapbook of customer photographs, since they became like family, but that's not enough.  I would have loved seeing at least a couple of events in which Charlie and Donna's special relationship with their customers was very much in evidence. 

I was happy to see Kingsbury champion printed books over digital ones, through this story of a special bookstore, but again, I would have preferred more details about how "The Bridge" played a part in the fight to save the printed book.  More conflict in this area would have been greatly appreciated!

After finishing this book, I was left with a refrain from an old song: "Is that all there is?"   I was also left with a feeling of sadness at having something missing, since I had been expecting so much more... 

My overall impression of this book is that it's much too short, and skimps too much on characterization and plot development.  The story is too rushed.  The resolutions to the main conflicts in the story -- Molly and Ryan's relationship, and the crisis at the bookstore, are much too facile, much too predictable.  I must repeat it -- there were no surprises in this book.  It's the typical Christmas story of despair turned to hope, with little in the way of originality.  Not that there's anything wrong with the theme of despair turning to hope.  However, this theme can be handled in such a way that it seems fresh and new.  The author failed to do that here.

In short, this book had a lot of potential, but it was just not fully realized.  I'm surprised that a writer of Kingsbury's stature didn't make full use of it.  I will in future try out other Kingsbury books, however.  Not every book penned by an author is perfect, after all.  I'm sure Ms. Kingsbury has written much better books, or she would never have made the bestseller lists as often as she has!


MY RATING:






2 comments:

  1. Too bad that you found this disappointed. I think that you had a great idea as to how the story could have been rounded out with the theme of paper books championed over books.

    I like the idea of setting a story around an independent bookstore. Based upon your commentary it sounds like the one in the book may become threatened. Too many have disappeared over the last ten years or so. Your idea would have really tied into that.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hey, Brian!

    Yeah, this book was not what I was expecting... I thought there would be lot more conflict centered around this bookstore, more background on the owners and customers...and the romantic couple also needed more background... With such a BEAUTIFUL cover, I was really hoping for a wonderfully, warm, enchanting plot! But no, instead, I just got a very predictable Christmas story, somewhat similar to the movie, "It's A Wonderful Life"...

    I will try other Kingsbury books, though, as I stated in my review. She can't be ALL bad! After all, she's been a bestselling author for years!

    Thanks for commenting!! : )

    ReplyDelete

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