The Last Bridge
Teri Coyne
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Buy *The Last Bridge* by Teri Coyne online

The Last Bridge
Teri Coyne
240 pages
July 2009
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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In this intense and provocative novel, Cat Rucker returns to her home town of Wilton, Ohio, after ten years of “twenty jobs, five apartments, a bunch of crappy relationships.” Kat has been on the run, her life fraught with more tragedy than most. She seems intent to escape the truth about her family and her father’s terrifying abuse, blurred by years of down-and-out drunkenness and a pile of fuzzy-edged memories.

Her brother Jared tracks Kat down, “the elephant of their shared history wedged between them,” with the news their mother has just committed suicide, two days after her father had a massive stroke. Apart from the initial violence of the act, all that their mother left is a note on a piece of lilac-colored stationery left in a zippered plastic bag and a hidden message on a hologram: “Cat, He isn’t who you think he is, Mom.”

This strange, cryptic message causes Cat to come face-to-face with the past in a fateful moment of reckoning. At her mother’s funeral, her sister Wendy arrives, and also Andrew Reilly, the county coroner whose mercurial presence adds yet another layer of ambiguity and mystery to this tightly-knit, emotionally complex family group.

Kat is puzzled at why Andrew is so anxious to help her and her fractured family; what really causes Kat to relive all of these painful memories is a voice from her past in the form of handsome, kindly Addison, “smooth, tall and with his hair copper-colored at the top.” Addison’s presence at the funeral causes more than the cold hard drop of fear to unfurl in Kat’s embattled psyche.

At this point in her story, the author layers Kat’s broken-down life with her painful past and shattered relationship with her cruel father, a heavyset man with a weakness for drinking and smoking. This combination, along with his lethal temper, made most of Cat’s life a living hell as he railed against her and the family: “the monster was out and she was in its throes.”

While solace came from a large sketchbook, each page covered with her hand-drawn frames of her heroine, Kitty Cat, Kat constantly ached for someone to protect her from her father. Only Addison, with his caring manner, the stories he told and the things he knew, made Kat feel hopeful that she could one day leave this place forever.

As the very real nature of Kat’s relationship with Addison is divulged - along with an accompanying secret - Coyne, in her starkly imagined and often traumatic novel of rival families, long-buried secrets, and a drunken woman who lives on the edge, devastatingly explores the nature of abuse and the fear that what you intend to leave isn’t ever going to let you go.

Kat remains brittle, complicated and often frustrating, her life held in a precarious balance as she battles to cope with the darkness and bitterness. Ironically, her only hope of redemption appears in the guise of Addison - and a young boy by the name of Alex - who offer her a second chance and an opportunity to reconcile the hard-won roads she’s been forced to travel as she tries desperately, against all of the odds, to remake her life.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Michael Leonard, 2009

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