. . .for looking at the world around us.” (Bruce Jackson)
A memory from long ago floated to the top of the heap as I read dk LeVick’s insightful new novel I had to look up the exact quote above, and upon finding it, I knew it was the perfect opening for my review of his book. Mr. LeVick manages to create a beautiful frame for the world that surrounds the lives of five young men in the midst of growing up living along the rim of the great falls in his “Bridges – a tale of Niagara.”
I refuse to be a spoiler, so I will not divulge how this tale ends, but it is my pleasure to build a frame around “Bridges” so that you will not hesitate to take in the entire view for yourselves. When, and not if, you read this book, you will enter into a fascinating and frightful world, both strange and familiar.
Although I was taken in immediately by a suspenseful opening scene, the story really begins to unfold as LeVick starts recounting stories of the Niagara River and the Falls from the past: scenes from the aftermath of the French and Indian war in the mid 18th century; escaping slaves along with Harriet Tubman, the Moses of her people, via the Underground Railroad to freedom in Canada just prior to the American Civil War. There are stories of Canadian newly weds visiting the American side of the Falls at a time when the exceptionally cold winter had frozen the Falls solid, completely damming the Niagara River – a sign to many of the end of the world. There is a beautiful story of the “Hermit of the Falls,” a musician seeking peace and personal fulfillment.
Almost without being aware, the reader discovers what ties each of the stories to the next, each story about something found, and something lost. What memories are locked in the detritus at the bottom of the gorge: a tomahawk, rifles, bayonets, a clarinet? How could a now faded colorful feather from an African bird have any connection to a racist man and his redemption in 1962? Mr. LeVick interweaves the stories brilliantly, and I found myself wanting to learn more, and reflecting on how we are all connected in one way or another.
Serving as the frame around those historical bridges is the primary story, which is centered around the lives of five young teenage boys, and what happens to them, both individually and collectively on one day: February 18, 1962. The boys are friends to one degree or another – one black and the four others assumed to be white. After hanging out one day at their favorite store, run by “Ol’ Gordy,” the boys first ask questions about the framed photos of Niagara Falls hanging on the wall behind the soda fountain counter. “Ol’ Gordy” is more than happy to tell the stories behind the treasured and carefully maintained photos – many from before his time. The photos that most intrigue the boys are the photos of the ice bridge spanning the American and Canadian sides of the Falls. It seems many people travelled back and forth across the bridge in the dead of winter “back in the days” before it was outlawed for safety reasons. Many people had lost their lives over the years attempting such a crossing, and many more barely escaped being swept away by the force of the waters of the Niagara river – it’s many rapids, deadly whirlpools, and of course the great falls themselves.
There is nothing more enticing to teenage boys than the sorts of tales of Niagara that “Ol’ Gordy” recounts, all the while sternly warning them not to attempt or even think of doing such a thing, even though the ice bridge had formed again that winter of 1962. Such warnings only served as encouragement for the five boys to take off on their own journey across the bridge. What happens to their individual relationships, their understanding of one another and of themselves, as they learn the hard lessons of the differences between bravado and bravery, cowardice and courage? In different ways, each one of the boys is changed – forever – by their experiences on that cold winter day.
Mr. LeVick’s style of story-telling is much like that of “Ol Gordy.” He wants the tale to last, without being boring or monotonous; he tells the story at his own pace, building as much suspense and curiosity in the reader as he does with the five boys, and he sends you on the journey with them: Kevin, Lennie, Wayne, Billy, and Chuck. And each discovers, in their own fashion, that, in the words of Kevin:
“It was strange how, without much notice, things happen that lead to things that have lots of notice. It also made me realize how things that happen in one place and time can cause other things to happen in other places and time. Everything’s connected to something, which is connected to other things, until it ultimately comes back to the original thing. I wondered if there was anything that wasn’t connected to everything.” (Page 125)
Each boy has his own way of connecting with that very thought of Kevin’s. The journey to such a realization, in whatever form it may take, requires bridge-building and bridge-burning, gaining and losing. It is an essential life-journey that we all must make.
I cannot encourage you more to “take the chance” on reading this fine book. Your decision to do so will be amply rewarded by dk LeVick’s rich narrative, and glimpses into the history of the Bridges of Niagara, and of our own lives. As Mr. LeVick told me in his inscription of my copy of the book, “Embrace your bridges, for they define who you are.”
Please vote for my blog, “Reflections From a Cloudy Mirror” in the traffic-breaker poll for this tour. The blogger with the most votes wins a free promotional twitterview and a special winner’s badge. I want that to be me! You can vote in the poll by visiting the official Bridges blog tour page and scrolling all the way to the bottom.
You can win a free paperback copy of “Bridges: A Tale of Niagara” by entering your name and email address its official blog tour page. The winner of the give-away will be announced on Wednesday, June 29 – be sure to enter before then!
Learn more about this author by visiting his website, blog, Facebook or GoodReads pages or by connecting with him on Twitter.
I do hope I have managed to interest you in “Bridges – a tale of Niagara” enough. . .