The Bridge of San Luis Rey


In 1714, “the finest bridge in all Peru” collapses and five people plunge to their deaths. Brother Juniper, a Franciscan missionary, decides to track down their individual stories to prove that even what seem to be random misfortunes are consistent with God’s plan. That his discoveries turn out to be more complex will come as no surprise. What may surprise are the beguilements of Wilder’s teasing, ironic, beautifully written tale, unlike anything else in American fiction. [link]

I finished reading The Bridge of San Luis Rey last night. I liked it. The characters are ordinary people who make lots of mistakes and are often lonely, but you can see how they are connected to so many others and wouldn’t be lonely if they just paid attention or were less proud. It made me feel a little sad (it was pretty honest), but it was so hopeful. And the writing was fantastic.

Some parts made me laugh. A priest is trying to figure out why God would choose to have some people die and others live. He is having a hard time proving that those that died were worse than those that lived. The narrator cheekily injects:

The discrepancy between faith and the facts is greater than is generally assumed.

The book was easy and quick to read, but it’s the sort of book you can read over and over. I thought, while reading it, that it might be difficult to make into a good movie. There isn’t much action or talking, mostly just descriptions of people. Apparently, it has been made into a movie three times. I’d like to see the first two, but the most recent one was probably written with the script I was imagining: it failed miserably.