"They entered the War like men stepping out from beneath an awning into a torrential thunderstorm. The first man that Bright saw die fell back down into the very trench from which he'd just climbed. His uniform was still fresh and the tops of his boots had been shined. Only the soles looked muddy."
-from Bright's Passage
Muddy soles. And muddy souls.
I've long been a fan of Josh Ritter's art. He's always struck me as a musical story teller, a troubadour of sorts. A man able to sing tales that are both grounded in an earthy reality while encompassing a larger, more universal perspective. And with the release of the book Bright's Passage, Ritter expands his art into prose.
The book's protagonist is Henry Bright, a young World War I veteran newly returned to his home in West Virginia. Although he returns with his body intact, the same cannot be said for his mind and possibly his soul. The novel travels back and forth, between his time in the war and his present, as he struggles to make sense of the world around him and his place in it. To help along the way is an angel, a rather unorthodox one.
While Josh has an amazing ability to tell stories with his songs, obviously expanding those stories into book length is an entirely different story. In terms of setting, he does a wonderful job immersing us in the first World War and the time following it. He's clearly done his research, and his descriptions bring to life senseless scenes of carnage and destruction on one hand, and life in West Virginia in the 19teens on the other. While there are some threads and details that beg for elaboration and elucidation, the ending is satisfyingly rich.
The book comes out on the 28th, but you can download and read the first chapter from Josh's website. And of course, there is his latest album So Runs the World Away that you can listen to while reading.
Order your copy of Bright's Passage
Josh Ritter - Change of Time (live) : Live at the 9:30 Club 5-8-10 (studio version appears on So Runs the World Away)