FAW Chicago, IL Est. 1922
FAW Book Reviews

Mrs. Bridge and Mr. Bridge
By Evan S. Connell Jr.

Paperback, 464 pages, Picador; New Ed edition (1991)

Reviewed by Roberta Gates
February, 2017

There are two sides to every story, and no one knows that better than Evan S. Connell, the author of Mrs. Bridge and Mr. Bridge. These are not new books-Mrs. Bridge came out in 1959 and Mr. Bridge in 1969-but they've attained the status of classics and are well worth the read, especially by anyone who's ever wondered what's going on in the head of a spouse. Why? Because these dueling narratives show us that while the simple concerns of Mrs. Bridge appear insignificant to her husband, they're not-and vice versa.

Using vignettes that focus on an event, an image or a conversational fragment, Connell gives us more than 100 very short chapters in each book which describe the trivia of everyday life. For Mrs. Bridge, this might involve chaperoning a school dance or dealing with a magazine salesman or learning to park the Lincoln her husband gives her for her birthday and which "she drives as prudently as she would... a locomotive." Mr. Bridge, on the other hand, spends his time examining his stock certificates, discussing cases with his secretary or instructing his son to get a haircut (to which his son replies that he cannot because "his external being would not then be in harmony with his inner self"). The Bridges are regulars at their country club, they see their friends often, and once they even take a trip to Europe. Yet, without really meaning to, they lose touch with each other.

As Mr. Bridge's law practice flourishes, a live-in housekeeper is hired and the laundry is sent out. Then the children grow up, and Mrs. Bridge finds herself without much to do. In an attempt to fill her time, she takes up painting, attempts to learn Spanish and volunteers once a week at the charity center, but nothing provides much relief. "It had been a long time, she felt, since her husband had truly needed her. He accepted her, and he loved her, of this she had never had a doubt, but he was accustomed to and quite unconscious of love, whereas she wanted him to think about it and tell her about it."

And how is Mr. Bridge faring on the other side of the equation? Not much better, as he admits to himself when, in a rare moment of contemplation, he reflects that his life had not begun until he knew her. "She would like to hear this, he was sure, but he did not know how to tell her... So the years passed, they had three children and accustomed themselves to a life together, and eventually Mr. Bridge decided that his wife should expect nothing more of him. After all, he was an attorney rather than a poet...".

Like all of us, Mr. and Mrs. Bridge are complicated beings, but in their quiet estrangement, they can only guess at the wealth of thoughts and feelings contained in the other. They are like icebergs, revealing only their quotidian tip while their deepest, truest selves are buried below.