Bright's Passage - Josh Ritter My spoiler-free review:Henry Bright talks to his horse. That wouldn't be so unusual, except that his horse is the one who started the conversation. Or so Henry believes. He's convinced he brought an angel back with him from the war in France, and now it's guiding his life and communicating through his horse. Now, that might not sound so bad if you believe in angels, but this one is directing Henry to do things that are dangerous and destructive. He kidnaps a girl, has a child with her, and after she dies, he sets a fire that quickly spreads across West Virginia. Blame it on the horse. Now Henry is on the run, and "the Colonel" is hot on his trail, determined to avenge the kidnapping and death of his daughter. ((The foregoing may sound like spoilers, but have no fear. These things are all presented at the start of the book.) The chapters mostly alternate between Henry's experiences as a World War I soldier and his current journey as he flees the fire with his infant son, with a few chapters of backstory about Henry's boyhood. The horrors he experienced in the war go a long way toward explaining his unusual behaviors after returning to civilian life. Josh Ritter has the gift of story. His writing really captivated me and drew me into Henry Bright's world. There's a confidence in Ritter's style that gives it a literary quality surpassing pop fiction. I especially appreciated the author's skill as a "noticer." He's a man who really sees, and he knows all the right things to tell you so you can see it too, without getting bogged down in detail. This is a first novel, so there are faltering steps, self-conscious moments, and little hiccups in the plot that distracted me at times and left me wanting more information. Some of the characters have interesting quirks and affectations, but at times those qualities feel like contrivances without a history to make them believable. The plot has an unusual structure that required me to trust the author a little more than was comfortable. It would have been helpful to know certain things earlier in the narrative so I could relax into the story without worrying about being left hanging at the end.Happily, the novel does have a strong finish, and I felt satisfied with the conclusion. Fans of Josh Ritter's music know he's a fine storyteller, and they'll enjoy the book for that alone. If you like to look a little deeper, Bright's Passage can be an exploration of the lingering effects of war trauma, and a young man's journey toward learning to trust himself. (3.5 stars)