Title: Furlough Bridge
Author: Jardonn Smith
Publisher: MLR Press
Characters: Forrest Barton, Wilton Zukel, Gaither Hollis
POV: 3rd Person
Sub-Genre: Historical, Paranormal, M/M/M
A veteran of WWI visits a Midwestern train terminal during WWII, hoping to meet a few traveling soldiers and lift their spirits during the holidays, but he soon finds his charity being taken to places beyond his imagination.
Jardonn Smith’s Furlough Bridge is a deceptive little story, but I mean that only in a good way. What begins as the undeniably erotic tale of a man whose lover is overseas fighting in WW II, ends as an emotional and uplifting story of compassion and hope at Christmastime, aided by a soldier with one last objective to fulfill before he’s able to find passage to continue on his spiritual journey.
Forrest Barton and his lover, Ernie Surbaugh, have been separated for years by the war in Europe, a separation that, for Forrest, has been made only slightly more bearable by his annual visits with his cousin, Wilton Zukel, and Wilton’s lover, Gaither Hollis, where Forrest finds comfort in the fold of a ménage relationship with the men, one Ernie has encouraged Forrest to continue in his absence. Jardonn Smith doesn’t waste a moment in giving the reader a voyeuristic glimpse into the sexual partnership the men enjoy and showing how well it serves Forrest in Ernie’s absence.
But that’s not all this story is. The reader quickly discovers this book is more than just its erotic elements. While Furlough Bridge isn’t so much a history lesson of World War II or the men who fought so bravely, it is very much about the effect the absences of those men had on the loved ones they left behind, the pride in their sacrifice overwhelmed by the fear that one day the blue star on the service flag hanging in a window would become the gold star that signified a soldier had been lost in battle.
Forrest, a WW I veteran himself, clearly understands the honor and heroism of the men who engage in battle on foreign soil and now sees both sides of that coin, as he had once left behind a family to worry for him as well. He has carried on the holiday tradition of placing a wreath at the base of a soldier’s memorial, and does so again, though this time he resolves to let the Christmas spirit propel him one step further, perhaps to make at least one furloughed GI’s evening a little bit brighter.
Meeting Private Vernon Gower, in a case of mistaken identity, sends Forrest on an impossible journey, one he’ll never forget, as he not only has the opportunity to ease the weary private’s burden but also to provide comfort and hope for Vernon’s family. One moment of compassion becomes the means to a better future for an impoverished widow and her children, in a touching display of generosity that will also serve to bring relief to Forrest’s troubled mind.
The mystical aspects of Furlough Bridge carry on in the tradition of many holiday stories, in that it requires the reader’s ability to fully suspend belief and place trust in the possibility of the Christmas miracle and all the wonder that entails. The element provides an undeniably sentimental aspect to the narrative, one that I admittedly didn’t expect as the story began, but was entirely moved by in the end.
A sincere wish to accomplish a random act of kindness suddenly makes the impossible seem possible for Forrest, who was, simply put, a good man and an entirely sympathetic hero.
Reviewed By: Lisa