"You know," I told my fellow writing group member as we critiqued her pages. "I've never read Bridge to Terabithia. I've not even seen the movie." She gave me a look full of wonder and pain and awe and reverence.
"Oh," she said. "You must read it. It's just a beautiful book."
I always thought Bridge to Terabithia was a fantasy. Maybe the film version transports the characters (and, by extension, you...) to a fantastical world, but the book pretty much occurs in the eastern part of the United State in the mid-1970s. Jessie, a boy growing up in a home filled with sisters, befriends a new neighbor, Leslie, a girl who moves into a neighboring house where no one stays.
This book touched me in many ways. Jessie's a runner. So was I in grade school. And based on the text, I was the same age (or a year off...) as Jessie during the mid-1970s. Paterson writes about how "peace songs" were popular now that the war had ended. I was 10 when the Vietnam War ended. I connected with the main character in a way few stories have. Living in the same town, walking on the same sidewalks where I walked forty years ago makes me recall memories from my childhood. This book brought back more.
Terabithia is created in the minds of the two friends. It's their shelter, their fortress from life. They rely on each other as they face monsters and armies where across the water they roam freely in real life. We also learn of a boy's struggle to connect with a distant father, something I believe all boys deal with to one degree or another. I didn't know the story. I didn't know the ending. I didn't expect a short book shelved in the Children's Section of our library to have such an effect on me. I'm also glad I read it as an adult and not a child. I doubt it would have had the same effect.
My writing group friend said I had to read it. So, when I saw this book being returned to the library where I work part-time, I decided to check it out and read it. I now understand the look she gave me. It makes perfect sense.