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July 28, 2009

Teri Coyne: Discussing THE LAST BRIDGE

Posted by webmaster
Teri Coyne, today's guest blogger, talks about the elements that, for her, would add up to the ideal book club gathering. It would center on a discussion of her debut novel, The Last Bridge, and include Oreos and sharing secrets. There would likely be some laughs, too, as Coyne is a former stand-up comedian.

The Last Bridge is the story of Cat Rucker who, after a decade-long absence, returns to her Ohio hometown, where her mother has died and left behind a mysterious suicide note. As she seeks to unravel the circumstances of her mother's death, Cat must also revisit her family's dark past.

If you were to ask me what my ideal book club experience would be, I would have to start with the refreshments. I'm sorry but it is virtually impossible to have a good discussion without something to snack on, so if you were coming to my house I would probably create a signature drink of some sort from The Last Bridge (we would be discussing my book if you came to my house that only seems fair, right?) The signature drink wouldn't be hard to come up with since Cat, my main character, does like her Jack Daniels (she likes it straight though, so a cocktail might be better.) She also likes chocolate milkshakes, onion rings and Oreos so I think you can guess what kind of spread I might put out.

Since The Last Bridge is an intense and many have said, dark, story I would get the discussion moving by talking about some of the lighter aspects, like Cat's sense of humor and how it helps her navigate through the trauma of her life. We would talk about how important it is to always try to see the humor in everything and I mean everything. Then I would ask you about the people you know who you think are funny and maybe share some stories about times in our lives when, in spite of the darkness, humor helped us see the light.

I guess the theme for my book club conversation would be about the light. What I learned writing a story as intense as The Last Bridge is that the only way to dispel the darkness is to shine a light on it. I didn't set out to write a story that was dark. I was writing about a woman who was struggling with reconciling her past. While we may not have all experienced the same things Cat has, we have all had experiences that have been hard to integrate into our histories. Some may say these are the "darker" aspects of our lives; others may refer to them as our "skeletons." I say these are our stories and we should own them and share them.

Cat is a wild, complicated, damaged, funny, intense, creative and strong woman and although she is fictional, I would do my very best to bring her to life as I know she will illicit strong emotions from everyone. Strong emotions are good. I want you to tell me how you feel about her. Do you think she does the right thing in the end? What would you do if you were in her situation? What do you think her feelings are for Addison? Is Cat capable of love? Is everyone? or are some people too damaged?

By the time we all got into a great groove, we would realize hours had gone by and we still hadn't gotten past the first discussion point. I would put on a pot of coffee and water for tea and insist that everyone eats more Oreos. As we wrapped up, I would thank you all for coming, for sharing your feelings and reaction to the book and for being my guest...and, I would insist you take some of the leftovers home with you!

Food, drinks, deep conversation and lots of laughter --- that's my recipe for a great book club meeting for The Last Bridge.

---Teri Coyne