The Bridge of San Luis Rey

Thornton Wilder

Read March 2003

A stunning little gem. A priest examines the lives of five who died in the kind of freak accident that leaves rational people asking, ``Why them?'' Wilder takes on a controversial topic in what appears to have been a much less tolerant time (though the writing's timeless quality never gives away that it was written in 1927), only loosely disguising the question in a historical context. The rest is the kind of book you hope never ends, with turns of phrase so delectable you linger over single lines for whole minutes—yet Wilder never gives the impression he is showboating. The book begins in breathtaking fashion; the middle sections initially seem like a let-down, until the author's plan becomes clear; only the conclusion is disappointing, almost as if Wilder couldn't bring himself to let the real conclusion, in all its ambiguity, stand on its own.