||Langdon Street Press
Two families, living worlds apart, one in a Seattle suburb, the other on a farm in North Dakota, have nothing in common except for an upscale passenger train ferrying passengers between Seattle and Chicago. Their worlds collide after a tragic event. This is a compelling and unforgettable classic American story.
Bridge Over the Valley
Between Seattle and Chicago the Mountain Daylight passenger train ferries people across the Rocky Mountains of Montana and the prairies of North Dakota. Night and day around the clock, the rails vibrate as lives intersect and futures unfold. In this setting, a young man from Seattle finds his first real job working on the train. Several states away, a small community in North Dakota watches its children grow up in an atmosphere of love and caring. These two worlds, which seem so independent of one another, will soon collide unexpectedly due to a tragic event that is fated to bring them together.
The Olsens are a proud, hardworking North Dakota farm family, their pride and joy being the eldest son Travis who is a star athlete with a bright and promising future. A clever manipulator, Travis knows what it is he wants and is able to get it. He wants nothing more than to win the state basketball championship and secretly conspires with top players from two other schools to transfer in to help him take on the larger schools in the conference. His love of basketball and farming is put on hiatus when he meets the love of his life Katie Russell.
The Jensens are an upper-class family from the Seattle area; their oldest child Trevor, is a talented, artistic young man who crushes his family’s hopes by delaying his college education in exchange for some fun and independence working away from home on a train where he grows up fast having one adventure after another. A scenic highlight of the night journey through Dakota is crossing a high bridge, the highest and longest on the route, over a picturesque town. Trevor has no connection to the place whatsoever until one night when his journey across North Dakota is interrupted and he finds himself in a midst of controversy that polarizes the peaceful town he crossed over numerous times before while working on the train.
"Bridge Over The Valley" is a classic American story of heroism, tragedy, triumph and healing.
Chapter 7. [Travis Olsen]
It’s so stupid and darn funny. People are such idiots. My
Granny. She comes over to the house one day and out of the blue
she wants to know if I had anything to do with Kyle and Joey
transferring to Cheneau Valley High. Of course I didn’t. It was
the great white basketball spirit that brought us together for this
last great hunt and ceremonial rendezvous so we can all three
ride together over the great divide into the sunset. It was a force
greater than me, I told her; once it started, I couldn’t stop it. She
wasn’t real pleased with that answer, so I just let it cook on her
burner for a while.
I like to go up to the Buffalo Mall in Jamestown, where I can
always meet up with some other kids, take in a movie, and just
hang out. People recognize me up there and they come around
“Aren’t you Travis Olsen from Cheneau Valley High?”
“You bet I am!” I answer. “I’m Travis Olsen. The Travis
One night, I was up with my folks in Jamestown having
dinner at Aunt Betty’s. I got bored, so I left and drove over to the
mall just to see who was there. I wanted to do some shopping.
I walked by the theater just as the movie finished. I pushed my
way through the crowd, disgusted that I even had to tolerate it. I
bumped right into Kyle. This little weasel came up to me, didn’t
say a word, and we did a chest bump. I knew who he was. I had
played against that little wimp a time or two.
Chapter 8. [Trevor Jensen]
Once we left West Fargo we started going. I mean like going
“Are we traveling at track speed through this blizzard?” I was
nervous as I talked to Tim, who had just come back for some
coffee. He looked nervous as he shuffled through all the train
bulletins and orders.
“We are,” Tim confirmed.
“The engineers can’t see ahead, can they?”
“I don’t think they can see five feet in front of the train,” Tim
“How can we go this fast when they can’t see ahead?” I
“As long as they can see the signals as we pass we are good
to go, my friend. So far they are all green. After we passed that
container freight at Casselton, we were clear all the way into
“We could kill somebody tonight,” I said.
“We sure could, if they get in our way. Trevor, you need to
think of it differently. Trains don’t kill people. People kill themselves
when they don’t keep off the tracks.”
“Do the engineers know where we are?”
“Hope so!” Tim chuckled. “Engineers are paid to know where
they are, but tonight it is more by feel than by sight!”
Chapter 13. [Shona]
He was so much fun. He could make fun out of nothing. Kyle
didn’t need money to have fun. We’d find ourselves down at the
shopping mall in Fargo. There we’d be, occupying space at the
food court and not have a dime to buy anything. Kyle would sit
there insisting he wasn’t hungry. I’d be starving, get up and get
myself a piece of pizza, and end up sharing it. Meanwhile, he is
drawing portraits of people sitting at the tables around us. If it
were somebody he really wanted to draw, he’d get into it; when
they figured out he was fixated on them, they’d spook off somewhere
else. He’d get so mad and then retaliate by making them
into somebody really ugly. He would show me what he drew
and we’d laugh our heads off. Maybe that’s what it was! I never
laughed so much as I did with Kyle. He kept a collection of those
mall portraits. They were some of his best art, in my opinion.
He drew this lady one time. I think she might have been povertystricken
or something, but she would sit there at the table watching
people eat. If they threw part of it away, then she would go and
dig the food out of the trash, bring back whatever she found to the
table and eat it. She looked like a squirrel in the park, stealing table
scraps. She was so precise. She ate so daintily. I could have killed
him that day. We sat there for two hours while he drew her for a
project in his art class. Just when I thought he was finished with
her and ready to take me over to the movie, she fell asleep and he
had to sit there and draw her sleeping. He wanted to sketch her
every position. She laid her head down on the table. You could see
the poor lady was exhausted. Then she eased down in the chair.
Mind you, these weren’t the most comfortable chairs for sleeping.
She propped her feet up on the adjoining chair and locked her feet
around the back of the chair. She laid both hands across her face,
much like a bird would do when it tucked its head under one wing,
and slept, unaware of the pandemonium caused from the overflow
of hungry shoppers coming in to eat. Suddenly there was a
scarcity of chairs. A big kid, looking in the opposite direction of
the lady, reached around behind him and tugged on the empty
chair she was hooked to. When it didn’t give, he pulled on it. He
pulled hard and pulled the poor lady right off her seat onto the
floor. Kyle went right over and helped her up. Kyle was so upset at
the boy for disturbing his subject. We never made it to the movie.
The Bismarck Tribune April 13, 2010
Book recommended for students, adults
Bismarck Tribune, Apr 13, 2010 | by RITA GREFF
Title: "Bridge Over the Valley"
Author: Gary A. Friedly
This is a story that captures the reader's attention and creates difficulty in leaving the book alone.
Written in the style of a mystery, this novel is devoid of figurative language that would slow the reader to contemplate the beauty of the words.
It is action-filled and fast reading.
Most of the story is set in eastern North Dakota in and around a city named Cheneau Valley, which is actually Valley City.
Author Gary A. Friedly talked about Valley City in an interview after he completed the novel:
"During a trip through North Dakota, I was stopped by a high railroad bridge that passed over a river and town," he said. "Valley City was the perfect setting for a story. I subscribed to the newspaper; I talked with the locals, listened to the radio, studied the landscape and watched the weather. I knew more about their town than my own. I couldn't hide my enthusiasm. I talked to state officials in Bismarck. I talked to folks in Fargo. When the town was evacuated and threatened by a flood, I didn't sleep at night until I learned the town survived. This story is about surviving. There are many characters spread out from Seattle to the Twin Cities. They all converge on Valley City."
The novel contains 14 chapters, which are divided into several first-person narratives on the title's topic. In the beginning, I wasn't sold on the technique, but it didn't take me long to catch on.
The main characters are young men who have just graduated from high school within the last year or week.
Trevor Jensen grows up in an affluent family in Seattle. His parents are professionals, and he and his sisters are able to develop their talents in ballet and music. Trevor is expected to attend an Ivy League college, but he rejects his parents' wishes and signs on to work on "an upscale passenger train" for one year. As a member of the night crew, his assignments cover the area between Seattle and Minneapolis.
Travis Olsen grows up on a farm near Cheneau Valley and graduates from high school in an eventful week. He signs to play basketball for the North Dakota State University Bison for the next school term. He and four of his friends were the starters for the last Class A state championship basketball team. He received two prestigious awards for his basketball skills: Mr. Basketball and the Coaches Trophy for outstanding senior athlete.
The author skillfully builds our suspicions as to how these two young men from distant cities will meet, and we begin to dread what the outcome will be.
Friedly's familiarity with the rural culture stood out to me. The reader is drawn into the Cheneau Valley community as it wraps its arms around its young people. It reminded me of my community and how protective we feel of our young people and how proud we are of their accomplishments.
As I read, I admired the expertise the author showed in portraying the youthful characters he created. We are introduced to the strengths and character flaws of each young man. We meet their families and discover their unique circumstances and how they fit into the community. The rescue and aftershocks were so realistic that I would recommend all high school students spend time with this book. Often students have no idea what far-reaching effects their actions can have. This easy-to-read novel is a tragedy that could happen and does happen in any of our small rural communities.
The novel is written using straightforward language. There is no sensationalism as far as vulgar language or sexuality. The story would be a good one for youth or just about anyone else.
(Rita Greff grew up the oldest of eight children in a family that valued reading, particularly fiction. She taught fifth and sixth grades for 34 years.)
Copyright 2010 Bismarck Tribune. All rights reserved.
Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved.
Valley City Times Record, August 24, 2010
Novel reflects writer's passion for people of Valley City. By Nikki Laine Zinke.
(Valley City Times Record, August 24, 2010.)
An author's portrait: If imitation is the sincerest flattery, then Gary A. Friedly's first attempt at fiction is a must for area readers. Set in a fictional North Dakota town called Cheneau Valley, "Bridge Over the Valley" is an easy to read, sentimental story about family, friends, fear and fate that is convincingly based on the author's study of Valley City, its landscape and its people...
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Reader Reviews for "Bridge Over the Valley"
|Reviewed by Tim Coulter
I wanted you to know how much I enjoyed reading the pre-copy of the Bridge over the Valley". Mixing the railroad genre with a fictionalized account of a real tragedy is very compelling. I am sure others will read and enjoy this story as much as I did.
|Reviewed by Sarah Neal
|Bridge Over the Valley is a story of everyday life in the Midwest that suddenly and unexpectedly turns to tragedy. It is a modern tale with a mix of antiquity and olden times as Friedly includes experiences with contemporary life of teens and families and the aged encounters of life on a train. Readers easily develop a sense of who the characters are and their beliefs and soon begin to empathize with each of them. As tragedy strikes, the reader is stricken with grief like the characters in the book but Friedly uses a style of writing that allows readers to manage the grief as the characters learn to cope. Both the reader and characters are learning how to deal with the misfortune while also moving on to live their lives. The heroic aspects of the book and characters also allow the reader to recover easily and conquer the past heartbreak. Bridge Over the Valley is, at first, very serene, and becomes quite suspenseful and in the end, incredibly fulfilling.|