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A Bridge Across the Ocean by Susan Meissner

A Bridge Across the Ocean by Susan Meissner
Pub. Date: March 7, 2017
Source: e-ARC + ARC via publisher (Thank you, Berkley Books!)
Summary: February, 1946. World War Two is over, but the recovery from the most intimate of its horrors has only just begun for Annaliese Lange, a German ballerina desperate to escape her past, and Simone Deveraux, the wronged daughter of a French Resistance spy.

Now the two women are joining hundreds of other European war brides aboard the renowned RMS Queen Mary to cross the Atlantic and be reunited with their American husbands. Their new lives in the United States brightly beckon until their tightly-held secrets are laid bare in their shared stateroom. When the voyage ends at New York Harbor, only one of them will disembark…

Present day. Facing a crossroads in her own life, Brette Caslake visits the famously haunted Queen Mary at the request of an old friend. What she finds will set her on a course to solve a seventy-year-old tragedy that will draw her into the heartaches and triumphs of the courageous war brides and will ultimately lead her to reconsider what she has to sacrifice to achieve her own deepest longings.
Genre: Historical Fiction, WWII, Paranormal

Told in three voices, A Bridge Across the Ocean is a novel that truly surprised me. ..as in, this very well could be a top contender for a top read of the year. Yeah. It was THAT good.

Annaliese grew up with a love of dance. That love, however, soon caught the eye of a Nazi officer. Forced into a marriage she never wanted, Annaliese dreams of escaping, running back to her beloved best friend, and never returning to the horrible, abusive man that is her husband. Simone’s papa and brother were part of the French Resistance before being brutally gunned down in the middle of the street while Simone watched. While fleeing, Simone does something that immediately has the Gestapo tracking her down. Her father always told her of a place where she would be safe – will she be able to make it there in time? Brette comes from a long line of women born with an otherworldly ability, an ability to see spirits (Brette calls them Drifters). Though she has always tried her best to ignore these ghosts, a high school acquaintance calls out of the blue one day desperately needing her help and pulls Brette into a mystery she can’t shake.

A Bridge Across the Ocean stretches from World War II to the present day as it follows each of these women and I was immediately hooked. There are thousands of war brides travelling across the Atlantic on their way to their soldier husbands back in America…and one of those women is carrying a terrible secret. To the reader it’s known from the very beginning, but watching it play out over the course of the book was captivating. The famous Queen Mary ties the past and present together and its even more famous ghosts lie at the very heart of the story.

Brette’s high school friend who needed help? His wife recently passed and his little girl insists she saw her mother on the ship. Inconsolable and refusing to believe otherwise, she demands they keep returning to the ship, to her mother, and Trevor hopes Brette can say for certain his wife’s spirit is not there. Begrudgingly Brette accepts, but the moment she steps foot onto the Queen Mary, she’s instantly embroiled in a mystery that had me flipping the pages. Could it be possible the war bride who is said to have committed suicide didn’t? Could she have been pushed? Oh, I was SO there.

I will say there was a twist that was revealed that, while I understand why it played out the way it did, in my mind I had imagined something far different and – for a time – was disappointed the book didn’t go that direction. However, looking back, I realize there was no other way it could have possibly gone; Meissner knew exactly what she was doing and the book proves it.

The entire time I was reading, A Bridge Across the Ocean was firmly planted in the really good, 4.5 stars category. It wasn’t until the end when another reveal happened – this one involving a spirit – that I was floored and instantly knew this book was something truly special. One tiny a-ha moment of Brette’s and a subsequent chapter from the spirit’s perspective completely took this book to a new level for me, though I have a feeling this reveal will either make or break the novel for readers. Either you’ll love it just as I did, or you’ll find it so outlandish that the book is ruined. I’m hoping it’s the former, because I thought it was excellent and tied everything together beautifully – AND reminded me of some of my favorite novels, so!

A Bridge Across the Ocean was a total surprise. I went in expecting a fun WWII/present day back-and-forth and got that and so much more. Please don’t let the supernatural element turn you off – not for a second does this ever stray into Sookie Stackhouse or Patricia Briggs territory. I’m slightly appalled that this is my first time reading Meissner’s work but am absolutely delighted to have found such a fantastic author to devour! Luckily for me, she has quite a hefty backlist and looking at 2015’s Secrets of a Charmed Life it looks as though her publisher found its groove with her covers and I’m positive her next release will also feature a similar design (I like it!). I highly, highly recommend this one – I was enchanted, I gasped, I laughed, I even teared up at the end, and – best of all – it caused me to spend an entire night reading up on war brides. I’m the kind of reader that loves to go off and do my own research on whatever interesting and intriguing topic I’m reading and A Bridge Across the Ocean had that in spades.

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