From the author of the beloved #1 national bestseller Crow Lake comes an exceptional new novel of jealously, rivalry and the dangerous power of obsession.
Two brothers, Arthur and Jake Dunn, are the sons of a farmer in the mid-1930s, when life is tough and another world war is looming. Arthur is reticent, solid, dutiful and set to inherit the farm and his father’s character; Jake is younger, attractive, mercurial and dangerous to know – the family misfit. When a beautiful young woman comes into the community, the fragile balance of sibling rivalry tips over the edge.
Then there is Ian, the family’s next generation, and far too sure he knows the difference between right and wrong. By now it is the fifties, and the world has changed – a little, but not enough.
These two generations in the small town of Struan, Ontario, are tragically interlocked, linked by fate and community but separated by a war which devours its young men – its unimaginable horror reaching right into the heart of this remote corner of an empire. With her astonishing ability to turn the ratchet of tension slowly and delicately, Lawson builds their story to a shocking climax. Taut with apprehension, surprising us with moments of tenderness and humour, The Other Side of the Bridge is a compelling, humane and vividly evoked novel with an irresistible emotional undertow.
Arthur found himself staring down at the knife embedded in his foot. There was a surreal split second before the blood started to well up and then up it came, dark and thick as syrup.
Arthur looked at Jake and saw that he was staring at the knife. His expression was one of surprise, and this was something that Arthur wondered about later too. Was Jake surprised because he had never considered the possibility that he might be a less than perfect shot? Did he have that much confidence in himself, that little self-doubt?
Or was he merely surprised at how easy it was to give in to an impulse, and carry through the thought which lay in your mind? Simply to do whatever you wanted to do, and damn the consequences.
–from The Other Side of the Bridge
About the Author
Mary Lawson was born and brought up in a farming community in southwestern Ontario. A distant relative of L. M. Montgomery (author of Anne of Green Gables), she moved to England in 1968, and now lives with her husband in Surrey. She returns to Canada every year. Asked on "CBC's This Morning "what she misses most about Canada, she says without hesitation that it's the rocks of the Canadian Shield. England has rocks, she says, but they are not smooth and rounded and "whale-like."
Lawson is a firm believer in the strength of the influences we receive as children, a theme explored in the book. Lawson's father was a research chemist for an oil company in Sarnia, Ontario, and the family lived in Blackwell, which was then a small farming community -- though not nearly as remote as that of Crow Lake -- and spent summers at a cottage up north.
She studied psychology at McGill University in Montreal in the mid-sixties, and says that Montreal was an eye-opening experience after growing up in Blackwell. "We had the radio, but we had no television, and relative to what kids know today ... they are just so much more knowledgeable than we were." She graduated in 1968 and went to England, finding work in a steel-industry research lab in London, which is where she met her husband, Richard.
Published under the "New Face of Fiction" program at age 55, Lawson calls herself a "late starter," though she began writing when her sons were small. She joined a creative-writing class, which she continues to attend, mainly for the companionship, and she took literature courses to study other writers. She describes the first novel she wrote, which was set in England, as a disaster: though it was a goodstory with characters and plot, she didn't know what she wanted to say. "It was a story without a point."
Then her parents fell ill with cancer, and she spent a lot of time in Canada. She started writing "Crow Lake" shortly after the double trauma of her parents dying and her sons leaving home. "I was thinking a lot about the passing of time and different types of loss and the importance of family and the significance of childhood. I think you are particularly receptive when you are a kid, and you take in not just the physical landscape, but the society and the culture and what matters to people. And it all just sits there -- eventually, if you are a writer, it comes out."
At length, a short story she wrote in the 1980s for "Woman's Realm "magazine in England was transformed into Crow Lake. She sent the manuscript out several times before it found the right agent, who then responded enthusiastically within twenty-four hours. The characters in the novel are entirely invented, with the exception of the baby, Bo, who was modelled closely on her own little sister. She was interested in exploring the brother-sister relationship and the notion that family members establish roles for one another which are hard to break free from ("In my family...I'm the 'Emoter'," she notes). In particular, she wanted to look at hero worship and what happens "to the worshipper and to the hero" when the hero fails. While indebted to J. D. Salinger for pointing her towards using children as a subject, and to Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird for the technique of writing a book with a child as narrator, Lawson says it was having her own children that taught her that people are born as individuals.
With its powerful emotional resonance, Crow Lake" "has already won the hearts of many readers, and Lawson's next novel will be anxiously awaited.
“Lawson’s gifts are enormous, especially her ability to write a literary work in a popular style. Her dialogue has perfect pitch, yet I’ve never read anyone better at articulating silence. Best of all, Lawson creates the most quotable images in Canadian literature.” —Toronto Star
“I could not put it down, but perhaps better to say that I could not let it go or that it would not let me go . . . Lawson transported me into a place that I know does not exist by taking me deep down into the story of a family whose fate is inexorable and universal. Her reality became mine.” —Globe and Mail
“One of the most eagerly awaited books of the autumn season. . . . The prologue draws you in, as does the novel, which is consistently well-written, involving and enjoyable to read. . . . Achingly real, known, [Arthur’s] inner life, with all its shifts in understanding, emotion, perception and conflicted impulses, is rendered with compelling force in concise, supple prose.” —Ottawa Citizen
“[Lawson] returns to several of the themes that marked her brilliantly successful first novel, Crow Lake. . . . Lawson’s cornucopia of novelistic gifts, even more bounteously on display in her second book, includes handsome, satisfying sentences, vivid descriptions of physical work and landscape and an almost fiendish efficiency in building the feeling that something very bad is about to happen.” —National Post
“An accomplished successor to [Crow Lake]. . . . With her cast of engaging characters, Lawson subtly but surely builds the dramatic tension toward a climax that changes the lives of both the Dunn and Christopherson families. Lawson’s story is a coming-of-age tale for two generations of young men, a community and a country.” —Quill & Quire
“There’s something timid yet masterful in Lawson’s writing. She neither wastes nor wallows. Her characters do not so much develop as blossom into themselves, one petal after another. . . . This is a book you will be driven to share with friends.” —Gazette (Montreal)
“A devastating story . . . about pushing fate and dealing with the consequences. The main characters of Arthur and Ian are expertly drawn.” —London Free Press