Goodreads description: For ten years, Alexandra “Cat” Rucker has been on the run from her past. But a sudden call from an old neighbor forces Cat to return to her Ohio hometown—and to the family she never intended to see again. Cat’s mother is dead, and she’s left a disturbing and confusing suicide note that reads: Cat, He isn’t who you think he is. Mom xxxooo
Seeking to unravel the mystery of her mother’s death, Cat must confront her past to discover who “he” might be: Her tyrannical father, now in a coma after suffering a stroke? Her brother, Jared, named after her mother’s true love (who is also her father’s best friend)? Or Addison Watkins, Cat’s first and only love? Taut, gripping, and edgy, The Last Bridge is an intense tale of family secrets, darkest impulses, and deep-seated love.
This book was on my Summer TBR top ten, mainly because I’ve had it a while and never read it. I found the receipt in the book and I bought it in 2010. It was just a book at Target and I’m not exactly sure why I chose it. The description sounds interesting but there’s also a quote about coping with abuse on the back of the book. Whatever reason I bought it then, I finally decided to read it.
“Two days after my father had a massive stroke my mother shot herself in the head. Her suicide was a shock—not the fact that she killed herself but the way in which she did it.”
I am not sure how I feel about this book. It was a quick read but it was also difficult to get through. I wonder if people who have been through abuse read stories about abuse to relate and if it makes them feel less alone. I don’t have any experience with abuse, especially nothing like this. When the story begins, Alex/Cat is still lost and living under the weight of her abuse. She isn’t just struggling emotionally, she’s an alcoholic and she’s barely getting by on purpose. She wants to spend most of her time in a haze so she doesn’t have to remember the bad things in her life.
She goes back home because her mother has killed herself and she’s confronted with every memory that she’s been trying to drink away. She’s been gone for ten years and hasn’t spoken to anyone in her family during that time, except once when her brother found her. Her mom is dead and Cat identifies the body by the missing tip of her finger which Cat’s father cut off once when she tried to leave him. Yeah, it’s pretty brutal.
The story addresses the simple note Cat’s mom left her, Cat’s memories of the past, and her relationship with her siblings, and her old “love”, Addison. The story switches between the current time and Cat’s past. In the present, Cat is trying to figure out what “He’s not who you think he is” means, and who it could be about. Cat’s siblings, especially Jared, try to reconnect with her but that isn’t something she wants. Her past shows how she met Addison and how their connection began while looking at Cat’s family life and how horrible her father was.
The abuse in the story is really difficult to read. It’s not just physical abuse, you find out later in the story that her father touched her and sexually abused her since she was seven. One time she tried to tell her mom and her mom’s answer was “We all have our crosses to bear.” Can you even imagine? I mean, her mother was also being abused and Cat’s father had threatened her. I’m sure it would have been near impossible for her to get away, but I don’t understand how a mother could watch her kids go through that without trying every single way out. Jared is the oldest and gets knocked around, but he’s kind of learned to take it. Wendy is the youngest and her father’s favorite, which means she gets spoiled instead of abused. She makes excuses for her father’s behavior and I guess she kept in touch with him, even knowing he did horrible things to everyone in her family.
Addison is the son of Cat’s father’s best friend. He came to town to fix up a house but stays above Cat’s family’s garage. He sees a happy family, he doesn’t witness the abuse. Cat tries to tell him and he brushes it off, he doesn’t want to see the truth. He doesn’t want to know how bad she has it. Cat’s love for Addison results in her father freaking out (to put it lightly). She ends up in the hospital for a while and then she basically has to escape. They don’t have insurance and she has to leave town to get away from her father. Addison takes her to a friend’s house in a different state. She recovers there then sneaks away from them, too.
The writing is nice but the story is so dark and troubling. I was asking myself why I was reading this sad, awful story. It stays heavy and upsetting. Some of the descriptions of violence and abuse were crushing. Towards the end, there is finally some light. It isn’t an easy fix, which is nice. Cat has to find her way out of the mess of her life. She has to work hard and it takes hitting rock bottom to even get to a starting point. However, it’s worth it. While the journey is dark and rough, the ending was actually sort of nice. I can see why people might want to read about situations like this if the person can rise above it, which I’m sure a lot of people do in real life, too.
It’s really difficult to rate this one. I didn’t like it very much and I won’t ever read it again. But it is a story that will stick with me, and it made me think and feel a lot of things. There’s an interview with the author in the back of the book and she talks about people with similar experiences telling her they relate to the story. Maybe for some readers it was a complex journey that they connected with, but this one wasn’t really for me. Even though I felt bad for a lot of the characters, I didn’t feel much else for them. The last few chapters were more engaging, but it wasn’t enough to save the book for me. I wouldn’t recommend The Last Bridge, unless you can stomach abuse and sad self-discovery.
Check out Teri Coyne’s website!