Months later while shifting through my stack of unread novels, I happened across “Bridge to Normal” again. Because I had enjoyed Wilhelmina Fitzpatrick’s earlier novels, I decided to give “Bridge to Normal” a second chance. Squat down at the bottom of my unread pile I flipped to page one and commenced reading. Before I was halfway down the page, I cast the book aside.
A year or so passed.
On hands and knees searching for something to read, I hauled “Bridge to Normal” from its position near the bottom of the still-unread stack. Determined to read it this time, I lugged it off to my La-Z-Boy, positioned my reading glasses on the end of my nose, spread the novel’s pages …
… and squinted at the tiny print.
The itsy-bitsy print is the reason I hadn’t read this book a year ago. The small print [!] was — still is — intimidating and likely to spook hesitant readers, especially if their eyes are old or if they have any vision difficulties whatsoever.
I truly don’t understand why a publisher would produce a book with such eensy-weensy spidery print. Surely miniscule print — print tinier than a dwarf black gnat — has a negative impact on sales.
To make certain I wasn’t simply being my — according to even those who love me — recognizably curmudgeon self, I found my copy of Fitzpatrick’s “Mercy of St. Jude,” peeped inside …
… and saw lovely, visible-to-sexagenarian-eyes print.
All the above being said, I still wanted to read “Bridge to Normal” because I knew I would like the story. So I uncapped an economy-sized bottle of lubricating eye drops and tackled the task.
I’m glad I persevered.
As usual, Wilhelmina Fitzpatrick has written a five-star yarn.
Bridgina Ashe wishes her family were normal.
There’s small chance of that ever being so considering the dysfunctional natures of her rum-and-Coke drinking mother, her reclusive thirty-something sister and her chain-smoking, slightly addle-pated father.
Normal being out of the question in Exile Cove, the minute she’s finished high school Bridgina tans ‘er for MUN thinking she will find a normal life at university, sharing rent with her friends Katie and Sylvia.
What do you think happens?
Although academically successful, Bridgina still doesn’t feel that she’s quite … well, normal. She lacks self-confidence. She feels unattractive. Stuff like that. Until …
…until she meets Iggy Connors.
Pull your perspective back a bit. Imagine you are a concerned parent or, perhaps someone watching Bridgie Meets Iggy: The Movie. Your instinct, your impulse, will be to grab Bridgina by the shoulders, give ‘er a shake and say, “Maid, stay clear of the likes of him.”
You think she’d listen?
Anyway, Bridgina meets Iggy and ob-la-di, ob-la-da, life goes on, brah.
As she moves through life, Bridgina has one possession that she carries with her from place to place — a poster of that “Desiderata” poem. You know the one that begins, “Go placidly amid the noise and haste …” and eventually — despite what anyone might think otherwise — assures us that “… no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”
Listen to Bridgina at an extremely low point in her life: “What I wanted more than anything, however, was for someone to tell me that everything was okay, that everything would be okay.”
… that the universe was unfolding as it should, I s’pose.
Oftentimes a story is so much like LOTP — Life On This Planet — that it hurts to read it. Reflections of our own lives appear so clearly that — no matter the print size — our vision blurs and our stomachs seize.
Why then, do we continue to read such books and pronounce them good?
We do so because they are fascinating, in a painful, gut-twisting way.
Kinda like picking scabs, eh b’ys?
“Bridge to Normal” is such a book.
You know something? Over a lifetime I’ve fallen in love with dozens of women writers. Truly.
For instance, back in 1970 I discovered a novel called “A Slipping Down Life” and immediately fell in love with its young author — Anne Tyler. We’ve both aged but I still love Anne, although I doubt she knows it.
Obviously, Bridge to Normal has reminded me of “A Slipping Down Life.” And you know what? If Wilhelmina Fitzpatrick continues to write such superlative novels — and if my eyesight holds out — I’m liable to fall in love with her.
Thank you for reading.
Harold Walters is a retired teacher living in Dunville, Placentia Bay. He can be reached by email at