A new life of friends and young love begins for Robin George when he forsakes his Maryland family’s retail empire to work as a bridge tender.
First-time author Davies’ lyrical novel reads like a true labor of love, with an endearing cast and a fondly rendered locale. The time period is the early 1980s in the Georgetown/Chestertown vicinity in Kent County, Maryland. Traversed by many rivers entering the Chesapeake Bay, the area sustains a strong boating and college-town culture. This is where young Robinson George, heir to his family’s chain of big-box drugstores, accepts an obscure state job as apprentice bridge tender—a contemplative gig operating (and practically dwelling inside) an old drawbridge spanning a waterway used by pleasure boaters. Robin joins the “brotherhood of the bridge,” which includes the widowed, ailing old tender Sean Flaherty; the big, laconic Odis; Father Hunter, a liberal-minded Catholic priest; and Sarah, a lesbian newspaper reporter covering the region. Robin’s new life coincides with a dizzying affair with the voluptuous Melinda McClellan, a more experienced older woman starting a promising but slightly anxious career as a vocalist on the regional coffeehouse circuit. The sensuous Melinda moves in with Robin, smitten by his good-hearted infatuation, but she does not seem to consider the arrangement monogamous or lasting. Indeed, a redevelopment scheme aims to demolish the old, possibly failing mechanical bridge in favor of an impersonal, high-rise motorway. The idyll can’t last, a fact confronted by the ensemble with wise acceptance—one might even say too much wise acceptance, as even Robin’s bourgeois parents don’t dispute his sudden veering off the life/business plan. Elements of R&B music and Roman Catholicism (a pretty progressive brand, considering all this technically happens during the Reagan years) flavor the thoughtful, elegiac narrative.
Gentle, music-infused romantic drama taking place in an out-of-the-way spot on the Eastern Seaboard.