Everyone who reads for their living (book editors, booksellers, English teachers) occasionally gets this question: What's the best book...

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Everyone who reads for their living (book editors, booksellers, English teachers) occasionally gets this question: What’s the best book you ever read? Here are a couple from the book editor’s corner: “Mr. Bridge” and “Mrs. Bridge” by Evan S. Connell, just re-released by Shoemaker & Hoard (both $15).

These quiet novels piece together a portrait of a couple, two members of an ever-so-correct Kansas City upper crust whose family life unravels despite their best efforts to do everything “right.” The books (“Mrs. Bridge” was published in 1959; “Mr. Bridge” in 1969) were made into a memorable movie starring Paul Newman and his wife Joanne Woodward, but as good as the movie was, the books are better.

The first paragraph of “Mrs. Bridge” sets the deliberate and heartbreaking tone of the tale:

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“Her first name was India — she was never able to get used to it. It seemed to her that her parents must have been thinking of someone else when they named her. Or were they hoping for another sort of daughter? As a child she was often on the point of inquiring, but time passed, and she never did.”

Mary Ann Gwinn,
Seattle Times book editor