The Bridge of San Luis Rey, by Thornton Wilder. Perennial Library, 1986, c1927
I decided to re-read this slim, Pulitzer-winning volume after spotting it on a re-shelve truck at the library. (I've been finding quite a few good books that way, recently!) I opened it to a random page, read a paragraph, and was captured by the lyrical, descriptive language. I read this book when I was in the 8th grade - a little while ago - and wondered if I would find more depth and meaning now that I am older.
The story involves the failure of a bridge over a Peruvian river, plunging five people to their deaths. Brother Juniper, on his way to cross the bridge himself, witnesses the accident and wonders - not questioning the Higher Authority who allowed it to happen - why those people fell, and why at that particular time in their lives. He then embarks on a quest to find out what was happening in each person's life in the time before their deaths. After years of research, his notes, compiled into several volumes, are declared heretical and they and Brother Juniper are burned to death.
Many of Wilder's works incorporate the theme of the Day of Judgment, though not in a pedantic way. On the day the bridge fell, each victim had reached a crossroad, and made a decision. My take-away from this re-reading: it is always possible to refocus the direction of one's life, no matter how difficult it may seem to do. It involves putting the old "scripts" behind and writing new ones. It requires faith. And love. The bridge is love.