A Letter from Author Josh Ritter
© Marcelo Biglia
The central premise of Bright’s Passage
is that an angel has followed young Henry Bright home from the senseless carnage of the First World War. The book follows Bright during three significant periods in his life, braiding the scenes together finally to portray a young man attempting to meet the greatest challenge of his life: returning home. The angel, perhaps a capricious refugee from the painted ceiling of a shelled French church, perhaps the dream-like manifestation of Henry Bright’s own shell-shocked mind, nevertheless takes up residence in Henry’s horse, and it is through their time with one another and the journey they take together that Bright attempts to find peace, not simply for himself, but if the angel is correct, for the entire world.
War always brims with bloody inscrutability, but the First World War mated the ferocious absurdity of human nature with unprecedented leaps of technological capability to birth a new and monstrous kind of world-striding warfare that for the first time in history seemed capable of wiping away whole civilizations. It was this conflict--the seeming ability of man to spin the world and yet just as easily be spun by it--that drew me to the time period surrounding the First World War, and that gave me my first glimpse of Henry Bright, a man caught up in a whirlwind he is unable to understand or control.
Though continuously pestered by the angel, upon returning home to West Virginia Henry attempts to put the abattoir of his time in France behind him by marrying his childhood friend Rachel and having a baby with her. When Rachel dies in childbirth however, Henry finds himself beset by new and present vagaries even as he attempts to understand the ones he has already come through. A wildfire, Rachel’s vengeful family, and his struggle to protect his newborn son from both now drive Henry Bright, his horse, his goat and his tiny infant into the wilderness in a desperate attempt to finally find peace.
Ultimately, Bright’s Passage
is about a man who has come home from war only to suspect that perhaps he has not yet returned from it.
Advance praise for Bright’s Passage
“Josh Ritter is already one of the country’s most accomplished songwriters. Based on the heartbreaking, luminous Bright’s Passage, he may become one of our most accomplished novelists as well.”—Dennis Lehane
“An adventure story with the penetrating emotional colors of a fable; a mythlike survival quest with the convincing texture of a movie; a good read that stays in the memory.”—Robert Pinsky
“A perfect marriage of the miraculous and the mundane, Bright’s Passage is itself something of a miracle. Combining the pull of a big ballad and the intimacy of a whispered monologue, it satisfies on every level: from its deceptively casual style and unexpected coinages to its astute psychology and emotional power. I imagine this is precisely the book every fan of Ritter’s music wanted, but Bright’s Passage is far more than that.”—Wesley Stace, author of Misfortune and Charles Jessold, Considered as a Murderer
“A dark, enchanting parable that reads as both a warning and a reassurance, Bright’s Passage has echoes of voices as disparate as Ron Rash, Richard Bausch, and Neil Gaiman. But, as always, Josh Ritter’s haunting, graceful work is his own. His gifts are of singular beauty, and the world of American art is fortunate to have been blessed with his talent.”—Michael Koryta, author of So Cold the River and The Cypress House
“In his debut novel Josh Ritter displays the same love of language and historical detail, the same irresistible combination of wit and earnestness, that make him such a brilliant songwriter. He’s created a genuine work of literature.”—Debby Applegate, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Most Famous Man in America: The Biography of Henry W...