Between the Bridge and the River by Craig Ferguson
Best for: Others seem to like this, and I don’t want to insult them or their taste, so I’ll just say — I’m not sure who it’s best for, but it sure as shit isn’t me.
In a nutshell: The lives of loathsome men and superfluous women intertwine in a weak, ridiculous, and boring novel.
Nothing. Nothing is worth quoting, unless it’s in an effort to point out how sexist and / or racist Mr. Ferguson’s writing comes across to me.
Why I chose it:
You all. You did this to me. I was not going to participate in the November book club, but I’m attempting to do a blackout BINGO, so I had to read it. I’m not pleased. I’ve not disliked fiction this much since those free Cinderella revisited books we got to review a few years ago.
No wonder I had trouble finding this book in Mr. Ferguson’s home country. They’re really doing him a favor by pretending this book doesn’t exist. I ended up buying it via Audible, and listened to it on long runs so I could experience it in chunks. I took some notes on my phone as I ran, hoping that perhaps I’d be able to write that it started slow but ultimately won me over.
Nopety nope nope.
The plot itself is, I suppose, interesting. Maybe? I don’t know. I rarely read fiction, and I think the last fiction I chose with a male main character was The Martian three years ago, which I enjoyed. Generally speaking, though, I got enough exploration of the male experience in high school English. And this book certainly didn’t make me any more interested in seeking out male protagonists or anti-heroes.
There are few women in this book, and they all exist to serve the men. Even the most fully-formed woman, Claudette, is basically just there to help George figure some shit out. It’s frustrating and sexist. Mr. Ferguson is not good at writing women, and that is pissing me off again as I write this review, so I’ll just leave it there.
I also struggle with authors who make their characters so repugnant that they use slurs and are all universally bigots. Can it really be considered a thoughtful character choice when all of your characters are shitty bigots? I started to wonder if Mr. Ferguson just wanted an excuse to use racial slurs / crappy accents / racist descriptions of people. That seems unfair to Mr. Ferguson, but also, perhaps it’s something he should think about?
Finally, the thing that I think bothered me the most is that the simple act of “being fat” is apparently the most awful, disgusting, and evil thing Mr. Ferguson can think of. Saul is fat, other people are fat, and Saul is described as disgusting. This ventures over to ableist near the end, when Saul seeks healing (he’s now also in a wheelchair), and is told he can’t be healed because “that’s who he is.” Now, perhaps Mr. Ferguson meant something else, but I heard it as suggesting that if you’re fat and in a wheelchair, you’re a bad person. And I’m super not okay with that. I’m not okay with any of this lazy writing, but this got me so pissed I almost gave up on the book, but I only had a little bit left.
I’m flummoxed that this is the book that the CBR folks thought we all should read and discuss this fall. There are a bunch of different little side stories that theoretically could be considered interesting, but overall I was super bored, and when I wasn’t bored, I was pissed. Clearly I’m not the target audience, but I am having such a hard time figuring out what is appealing about it.