Bridge of Clay

by Markus Zusak, 2018, finished 12/7/18

Good novel, set in Australia, about 5 brothers wracked by grief when their beloved mother, Penelope (Penny), dies of cancer, and their father (Michael) abandons them. Clay, the fourth of 5 boys, leaves home to help their father build a bridge, and ends up building a bridge for all of the boys back to their father.

The boys called their father the Murderer, and they hated him because he abandoned them after their mother died. Clay brought them all back, though, because he knew all the stories and all the truths. The main truth was that Clay, not their father, was the Murderer.  Penny had begged Michael to end her life but he couldn’t do it, even though her life was not worth living any longer yet she just couldn’t, wouldn’t die. Clay found them in the backyard one day, his father on his knees with his mother in his arms. Clay picked her up (when he was 13 years old) and carried her under the clothesline, where the last thing she saw was pegs against the sky, and he put her in the car in the garage with the engine running. This was what she had asked their father to do but he was unable to do it. Clay told no one the truth, except Carey, his jockey-girlfriend, who dies the day after she wins the big race. So much sadness and heartache that Clay has to live through. Such a loving, beautiful boy. All through the book, told through the eyes of the older brother, Matthew, Clay carries a peg in his pocket. The writing was a little too lyrical and poetic for me. He says things but doesn’t really say them and you have to guess at the meaning and it got tiresome for me after a while. But, the 5 boys are such lovable characters, especially the youngest who has a menagerie at home: a goldfish, a mule, a cat, a pigeon, and a dog. The mule is named Achilles and he likes to wander into the kitchen. The book is good because you want to know why Clay has a peg in his pocket and he keeps you guessing until the end. Good book, fantastic characters, and unique setting.