Bridge Across The Ocean
by Susan Meissner spans the lives of three women, one in the
modern day and the other two during the 1940s. She intertwines
their lives with the help of a ship, some ghosts, and historical
facts surrounding the Nazi regime. The gripping story of a
young German ballerina and the daughter of a French resistance
fighter are heart-wrenching.
the symbolism of the title, “All of the characters are
taking a journey. They are brave as they enter this unknown
world, where they cannot see the other side. As I said in
the book, ‘Life will send up across a bridge we did
not want to cross, but when we finally open our eyes, on the
other side, we see that there had been nothing to fear after
all,’ and we must move forward. Both characters saw
torture, misery, and felt helpless. They knew they needed
to climb out of the abyss. They did so with courage and patience.
I hope people see this as a story of goodness, justice, love,
Beyond the human characters is a ship, the Queen Mary, which
takes on human qualities, seemingly with a life of its own.
The mystery begins aboard the RMS Queen Mary as it transported
at the end of the war thousands of World War II brides who
married American servicemen. Aboard is a former ballerina
who married a Nazi Gestapo Agent, Annaliese Lange, and Simone
Deveraux, the daughter of a French Resistance spy. One is
trying to escape her past, while the other is trying to start
a new life in a new land. But, when the voyage ends in New
York, only one of them disembarks. Readers will frantically
want to find out what happened to Annaleise, did she jump
or was she pushed?
The other main character, Brette Caslake, is someone who senses
and communicates with drifters, or as people commonly refer
to them, ghosts. On a visit to the Queen Mary, a spirit asks
her to investigate Annaliese's supposed suicide. Brette decides
to solve this seventy-year-old mystery of the war bride.
The author plays
off the theories that this ship is haunted and a gathering
place for those who have not “crossed over,” with
the Queen Mary spirit watching over all of them. The ghostly
part is not all encompassing to the plot. Anyone who enjoys
the paranormal genre will like this book, but for those people
who want to concentrate on the historical scenes, there is
plenty to go around. In fact, the account of both women in
the midst of World War II is the highlight of this novel.
Annaliese's and Simone’s stories are engaging and heartbreaking.
Meissner noted, "As I was taking a tour of the ship,
I learned how she brought over all these war brides after
the war in 1946. Then I found out about how she was haunted.
I made the leap that there is the ability for the soul to
hang around after death, so I treated it as a literary character.
In the acknowledgments, I wrote, ‘I am grateful to G-d,
who has assured me beyond all doubt that this life on earth
is not all there is.' If you believe there is life after death
than it can be possible there are ghosts. I pondered that
belief. I thought if ghosts are real then there must be more
to the physical world and in that world, there is more than
we can actually see."
This being a
character driven story, readers learn how Simone watched her
father and brother executed by the Nazis, had a Gestapo agent
rape her, and hid from them with the help of the French resistance.
While in hiding she met her future husband, an American pilot
injured when his plane was shot down. As she helped him to
recover, they taught each other English through the Bible,
fell in love, and married at the end of the war.
The other war bride, Annaliese, meets her future husband during
her performance of “Swan Lake.” He is abusive,
controlling, and threatening. A powerful quote hammers the
point home, “It only mattered to him that she feared
and respected him…” Knowing she must escape the
relationship it became an obsession with her to find a way
to freedom. Taking her dead friend’s identity she boards
the ship as a war bride, hoping to become anonymous in America.
All three women take a journey to discover whom they are and
what they must do to survive. Through the mystery and the
dangers encountered they realize that sometimes there is no
control over events and circumstances. The famous saying “you
can’t pick your family, only your friends” comes
to mind. The book quote is a version of this, “That’s
the beauty and burden of having a child. You don’t pick
and choose the one you think you want, you are handed the
one G-d gives you.”
The plot and the characters are very intriguing. The spirit
of the Queen Mary is intertwined within the historical lives
of Simone, Annaliese, and Brette. Readers will not want to
put this engaging book down.