Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Bright's Passage by Josh Ritter

Henry Bright, a young World War I veteran, has returned to his rural West Virginia home accompanied by his battlefield angel who speaks to him through his horse. When Henry’s young wife dies in childbirth, Henry, at the bidding of his horse/angel, sets fire to his cabin, takes his infant son, his goat and his horse and flees, pursued by the evil Colonel, (the father of his dead wife) and the wildfire he has started.  Flashbacks of Henry’s childhood and service as an infantryman in France show the reader how Henry came to this state of affairs. Possibly shell-shocked by the battlefield brutality he has witnessed, Henry sometimes does his best to follow the angel’s instructions and sometimes resists these instructions as he makes his way across the countryside. When he finally stops at a hotel with many other people who have been rousted from their homes by the fire, his conflict with the Colonel reaches a shockingly violent denouement. The author of Bright's Passage is songwriter Josh Ritter.  His lyrical way with words, which is apparent whether he is describing the wild beauty of Appalachia, the horrors of war or a forest fire, or the fresco paintings in a French church, help us to understand the workings of the mind of a battle fatigued veteran.