The Bridge of San Luis Rey

padre2 Thorton Wilder’s clerical gumshoe, red-haired Brother Juniper, investigates why the Almighty would, in his wisdom, commit an Act of God that drops 5-random travelers into a crevasse, along with the remains of the finest rope bridge in all Peru on July 20, 1747. Brother Juniper’s motive is not completely antiseptic, as he watched the 5-gesticulating ants take the plunge, as he too was headed to cross the bridge…”within ten minutes, myself…” After a six year investigation into why those particular ants had to meet their maker, Brother J publishes an enormous book related to the investigation. In it, the five victims are graded on Goodness, Piety and Usefulness. The book is declared heretical and burned in Lima’s public square along with its author.

The details of the five interconnected victims lives was a bit dull, so the read isn’t a pleasure. Still Wilder is an esteemed writer (The Bridge of San Luis Rey won the Pulitzer Prize in 1928) and won’t be outlawed for this book alone. The book does have a famous passage at the end, where speaking of the five who died, the Abbess (a great character) tells Dona Clara:

“But soon we shall die and all memory of these five will have left the earth, and we ourselves shall be loved for a while and forgotten. But the love will have been enough; all those impulses of love return to the love that made them. Even memory is not necessary for love. There is a land of the living and a land of the dead, and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.”

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