Bridge 108 Book Review
By Anne Charnock
I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review.
A poignant and timely story about forced migration, unlawful immigration, and the hurdles we face trying to adapt to systems that are inherently antagonistic to us. It is a book that is both disheartening and hopeful at the same time, with interesting and sympathetic characters.
Caleb is a child when he is forced to abandon his native Spain, which is wracked by a manner of natural and economic issues (none of which are explained in detail, merely teased out). He travels with his mother in an illegal caravan until she one day disappears. He is later picked up (aka trafficked) by people who indenture him into working for them. His story follows his decision whether to flee his situation and whether he would indeed be better off in a system designed simply to put him somewhere rather than help him thrive.
The shifting perspectives in this story make it very interesting. Had the entire thing been in Caleb’s point of view it would have gotten tedious, but instead, we’re given a child’s perspective for the first little bit, then shift between him and different adults, all of whom encounter him at different times. This allows for blanks to be filled that Caleb, as a child, is unable to fill for us readers, which also gave us a different view on the adults in his life. Someone who seems hostile or harsh is later revealed to have simply made a mistake or a similar misconception.
The author really put a lot of thought into what life would be like for people living in different levels of the social hierarchy. We are given a view to the indentured, paid workers, leaders, civilians, even the well-off at one point. All these builds an interesting, yet completely feasible future – especially given what’s happening now with wildfires and natural resources around the world.
Yet, I would have liked a little more exposition (even later in the story) as to what these disasters are, how other countries are handling refugees, and perhaps a chapter with someone in the government. While I understand all the chapters are linked by Caleb, there was likely a way to show a broader view of the situation, as effective as the first person was.
I started out mildly intrigued by the story and ended up wholly impressed by the subtle intelligence behind what it was trying to say about migration, especially in our world where it’s said something like 1 billion coastal dwellers will be displaced by global warming in decades to come. Where will they go?
Nothing about Caleb’s journey was melodramatically terrible (though it obviously was not pleasant for him), which makes sense why people are just putting up with it. What we can endure, we tend to just accept after awhile.