Bridge is a haunting multiverse thriller from Shining Girls author Lauren Beukes

"Bridge" by Lauren Beukes. Cover image courtesy of Little, Brown and Company.
"Bridge" by Lauren Beukes. Cover image courtesy of Little, Brown and Company. /

Lauren Beukes is the author of a number of novels including Zoo CityMoxylandBroken MonstersAfterland and The Shining Girls, which was adapted as a television show starring Elizabeth Moss on Apple TV+. Her latest book, a standalone speculative thriller called Bridge, has just hit shelves.

Bridge is a multiverse story which explores grief, alternate lives, and how the things we cling to can sometimes force us down dark and regressive paths. It’s a fascinating book in the same sort of self-reflective lane as Everything, Everywhere All at Once. Mild spoilers for Bridge follow below.

“Bridge” by Lauren Beukes. Image courtesy of Little, Brown and Company.
“Bridge” by Lauren Beukes. Image courtesy of Little, Brown and Company. /

Book review: BRIDGE by Lauren Beukes

Bridge begins by introducing us to the title character Bridget “Bridge” Kittinger, the daughter of a neuroscientist. Bridge is saddled with the responsibility of going through her mother’s belongings after she dies of brain cancer, but when she arrives at her mother’s house with her best friend Dom, they find a strange object hidden in her mother’s freezer, something Bridge remembers her mother calling the “dreamworm.” It supposedly opens doors to other worlds if it’s ingested under a very specific set of circumstances.

The discovery of the dreamworm unlocks a rabbit hole of mystery and danger, and not just because Bridge is desperate to believe that it might grant her the key to seeing her mother again in some other reality. It also unearths traumatic childhood memories where Bridge’s mother Jo taught her about the dreamworm, before years of therapy convinced her that it was all part of her mother’s delusions.

With that initial set-up in place, Bridge progresses as a story told in multiple timelines. In the present, we follow Bridge and Dom’s journey to understand what exactly the dreamworm is, and why her mother left it for her. At the same time, they uncover Jo’s journals, which relay details about how Jo encountered it in the first place. And off in the wings, a deadly killer sets their eyes on everyone who comes into contact with this otherworldly substance.

Bridge is a thriller, and it has the deliberate pacing and snappy character work you’d expect of one. But it’s also a 400-page rumination on grief, with clear analogies to drug addiction, denial, and the other difficulties that can manifest when someone suffers a great loss. Bridge’s relationship with her mother was troubled at best, and the dreamworm gives her a way to work through those issues, for better or worse.

Bridge is at its best when it leans into the humanity of deep grief

The novel works best when exploring Bridge’s state of mind after losing her mother. The first two-thirds of Bridge deal a lot with how Bridge is exploring her grief. The dreamworm essentially allows someone to swap minds with a different version of themself in a different reality. There are infinite realities, all of which can be dialed into.

This sort of multiverse story has been done before, but there will always be room for another done well, and Bridge most certainly qualifies. Multiverse stories like this one are explorations of self, of how different choices lead us down different paths. Bridge is not always a good person; many of her choices frustrated me and came off as deeply selfish. But I was never frustrated with the book itself, because it was always clear it was supposed to be interrogating this cycle of self-destruction. Grief can give us an opportunity to work through our issues, accept responsibility for wrongs we’ve done, and grow. Or it can lead us to make terrible decisions that spiral outward and affect everyone else around us. Bridge digs deep into this idea.

The last hundred pages or so lean much harder into action, which didn’t quite grab me as much as the earlier stuff, even though it’s well-written. It didn’t quite satisfy as an ultimate climax to this standalone story, and things wrap up very quickly once we get close to the finish line. Without any sign that Beukes is planning a sequel, there are still enormous questions about the nature of the dreamworm left hanging by the book’s end.

Fortunately, the ending itself is hauntingly good. Despite having some cool (and sometimes terrifying) science fiction elements, Bridge is really about its characters and the decisions they make. The ending drives that idea home with a few solid resolutions, showing how some characters learned from their mistakes and others did not. So despite any issues I may have had with the final act of the book, it ends strong.

Lauren Beukes’ writing is vivid and immersive

As for the actual prose, I was quickly immersed. Beukes has been praised by authors like George R.R. Martin and Stephen King, and after reading Bridge it’s easy to understand why. The book is vividly written, quickly getting to the hearts of the characters in that way which only an expert author can. Bridge and Dom and Jo all feel distinct, with their own mannerisms, quicks and styles of speaking. It’s worth mentioning that Bridge also features some great non-binary representation with Dom, who is a standout character.

Fans of horror will also find things to love here. Things can get downright gruesome in Bridge, and more than once it reminded me of a summer horror flick. But aside from the dreamworm itself, the story is very grounded in reality. Bridge is set in the real world — many real worlds — and it makes the most of that setting in some fun ways that shine a light on some of the odd quirks of our own reality.

I classified Bridge as a speculative thriller above because it has sci-fi elements, but it’s very much accessible for those who aren’t genre devotees. It’s a fast-paced read that’s hard to put down, so fascinatingly dark that you can’t help but be swept away.


Bridge is a riveting exploration of grief and how our choices affect our reality. It makes the most of its multiversal trappings to tell a compelling story about flawed characters coming to terms with their demons. The sci-fi parts of the story are fascinating and deeply researched, but still accessible enough that the book will have a broad appeal to non-genre readers. It’s a great choice to add to the beach read stack, so long as you’re comfortable with dark, contemplative journeys of self-inquiry on your summer vacation.

Bridge is out now from Mulholland Books, wherever books are sold.

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