Thursday, August 22, 2013

Review: The One-Way Bridge by Cathie Pelletier

Cathie Pelletier knows her subject matter. She has captured the dialect, the life-style, the scenery, and the personalities of the fiercely independent population of Mattagash, "the last town in the middle of the northern Maine wilderness." The cover illustration opens the book as about-to-retire postman Orville Craft is confronted with the Moose mailbox of town resident and Vietnam vet Harry Plunkett. Plunkett has turned the mailbox so that Orville must insert the mail into the "$%X"end of the giant mammal container. Orville is convinced that Plunkett has it in for him.

The one -way bridge probably exists in many towns. In Mattagash, the unwritten rule states that when two vehicles approach the bridge from opposite ends, the car whose wheels enter the bridge first has the right-of-way. The other must back off and wait. This rule will eventually become central to the story.

But in addition to Orville and Harry, there's small time, homeless, jobless thug Billy Thunder. He's actually not homeless...he can sleep in his vintage Mustang convertible, except that the top won't go up, and winter is coming. And he's not actually jobless - he's a "salesman" of sorts and it's just that his suppliers (the thugs one step up in the food chain) are refusing to send him any more "supplies" until he pays what he owes. His resorting to selling faux goods of a slightly different composition nets him funds for a short time only. 

There are an assortment of other lovable, laughable characters, each one symbolic of a specific social ill, whether it's boredom, unemployment, divorce, empty nests, unfulfilled fantasies, or post traumatic stress. Pelletier has painted a picture of a town that is trying, of a citizenry that still has a can-do attitude, and of a way of life that seems at once surreal and actual. The dialect is spot on. The scenery is painted with a broad brush enhanced with subtle shadings.

Without spoilers, this is not just a fun or funny book. The life issues of a variety of inhabitants are addressed with empathy, compassion and well-researched knowledge of cause and effect. The drama that develops as Orville and Harry's feud escalates serves to highlight a myriad of problems residents would rather not contemplate. It's a deep book, and one that would make an excellent choice for book discussion groups.

If you want eccentric but credible characters, beautiful scenery, and poignant emotional situations, this one's for you.

Title: The One-Way Bridge
Author: Cathy Pelletier
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark (2013), Hardcover, 304 pages
Genre:  literary fiction
Subject: retirement, loneliness, boredom, unemployement - small town life
Setting: fictional town of Mattagash Maine
Source: E review copy from publisher through Net Galley
Why did I read this book now? The author and the subject appealed to me.


  1. what I want is a moose mailbox!
    ..and maybe this

  2. I think I would like this one, and the cover is so cute as well.


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