Critical Overview

Most reviews are positive for Russo’s 2007 novel Bridge of Sighs. The novel is often compared to Russo’s Pulitzer Prize–winning book Empire Falls because of the themes and settings that these two stories share. Although most prefer the earlier work, critics praise Russo’s ability to create a believable world and recognizable characters.

Janet Maslin, writing for The New York Times, says, “It is a novel of great warmth, charm and intimacy, but not one of earth-shattering revelations.” Later in her review, Maslin added, “Another of Mr. Russo’s hallmarks is that wonderfully unfashionable gift for effortless storytelling on a sweeping, multi-generational scale.”

Russo spends a lot of time in the first half of the story setting the stage and introducing the characters. Not a lot happens in the rather bland life of the narrator, Lucy Lynch, who struggles through his early years mostly without a friend. As the story progresses and Russo switches narrators, sometimes looking through the eyes of Bobby Noonan Marconi and at other times those of Sarah Berg, the story becomes a bit more enticing. Bobby and Sarah also provide different interpretations of life in Thomaston as well as different perspectives of Lucy, enlivening the story.

Bridge of Sighs,” Yvonne Zipp for the Christian Science Monitor writes, “is anchored by the wry humor and innate decency Russo brings to his characters. Where other writers might see figures of fun—Lucy and his dad with their twin ‘doofus grins’—Russo sees heroism and melancholy.” This sentiment is repeated in many of the reviews of this novel.  Russo’s focus on characters off-sets a slow plot for many critics.

Sandy Bauers, writing for the Philadelphia Inquirer finds an additional benefit to Russo’s style: “Whatever characters he writes about, it’s a glimpse not just into them, but also into us. It is a truth-telling of the finest order.”

Stuart Shiffman on the website Bookreporter takes another stance. Shiffman was curious the numerous artists in the novel: Bobby, Sarah, and Sarah’s mother. Russo goes into great detail to talk about these artists’ work as well as their challenges and their accomplishments. Shiffman writes, “While Russo works in an altogether different medium, the characters he portrays and the events he depicts are as vivid and beautiful as any great work of art.” Shiffman finds that Russo creates his characters in such beautiful detail that “as you reach the end [of the novel], you want to turn back to the opening pages and start once again. Russo’s ability to present individuals with dignity and grace make this a quietly astounding novel that should be on everyone's fall reading list.”