Listening to an angel

If you’ve ever heard songs like “The Temptation of Adam” or “Harrisburg,” you already know that alt-folk singer-songwriter Josh Ritter knows how to tell a story. In his first novel, Bright’s Passage, Ritter tells the story of World War I vet Henry Bright of West Virginia, who picked up an “angel” in the trenches that communicates with him by talking through his horse. Henry’s wife has just died in childbirth, and his villainous father-in-law and two brothers-in-law are coming after him to kill him and take his newborn son. The narrative of Henry’s escape is complicated by a wildfire and flashbacks to his wartime experiences, for a haunting and emotion-driven tale of a man who just wants to live in quiet safety while he raises his son. Ritter may not be quite as good a novelist as he is a musician, but it’s a damn close call; this is an extremely auspicious beginning.