The Other Side of the Bridge

The Other Side of the Bridge

by Mary Lawson


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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

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385340380
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/28/2007
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 373,542
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.68(d)

About the Author

Mary Lawson was born and brought up in a farming community in central Ontario. She moved to England in 1968, is married with two sons and lives in Kingston-upon-Thames. This is her second novel.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

FireFighters Battle BushFire

Lost Bear Hunter Located by Plane: In Bush 40 Hours

Temiskaming Speaker, May 1957

On a small farm about two miles outside Struan there lived a beautiful woman. She was tall and willowy with a lot of fair hair that she drew back into a thick plait and tied with whatever came to hand—a bit of frayed ribbon, an elastic band, an old piece of string. On Sundays she rolled it into a shining ball at the nape of her neck and fastened it somehow so that it wouldn’t fall down during church. Her name was Laura Dunn. Laura, her own name, soft and beautiful like she was; Dunn, her husband’s name, solid and lumpen like her husband. Arthur Dunn was a farmer, a big, heavyset man with a neck at least twice the width of his wife’s, and to Ian, sitting with his parents three pews behind, he looked about as exciting as dishwater.

Ian had first noticed Laura Dunn when he was fourteen—she must have been around all his life but that was the year he became aware of her. She would have been about thirty at the time. She and Arthur had three children, or possibly four. Ian wasn’t sure—he’d never paid any attention to the children.

For a year he made do with watching her in church on Sundays—the Dunns came into town for church every Sunday without fail. Then, when he was fifteen, Ian’s father said that he should get a job working Saturdays and holidays and start saving up for his further education, the theory being that you appreciated things more if you’d helped to pay for them yourself. Ian couldn’t recall anyone asking him if he wanted more education—it was another of the many assumptions people made about his life—but in this particular case he didn’t argue. He got on his bike and cycled out to the Dunns’ farm.

The farm was an oddity in the Struan area because Arthur Dunn still worked his land with horses. It wasn’t because he couldn’t afford a tractor—the farm was prosperous enough—and it wasn’t through any religious convictions like the Mennonites farther south. When asked about it Arthur would study the ground thoughtfully, as if the question had never occurred to him before, and then say that he guessed he liked horses. No one bought that explanation, though. They all believed that Arthur had been put off tractors years earlier, when his father got one and drove it down to the lower forty, where he rolled it into a ditch and killed himself, all within two hours of its arrival on the farm. Even the youngest and least intelligent of the plow horses would have known better than to fall into a ditch. The day after the funeral Arthur got rid of the tractor and harnessed up the team again and he’d been plodding along behind them ever since.

He was out in the fields when Ian cycled up to the farm. Ian saw him, off in the distance, being towed along by two great heavy-footed animals like a picture postcard of a time gone by. Ian leaned his bike up against the pump, which he guessed would only be used to fill the water trough—all but the most remote farms in the area had running water, and electricity too; they’d been connected up to the grid two years ago, when the power lines were run in for the sawmill.

Ian picked his way between the chickens to the back door. There was a front door on the other side of the house, but he figured no one ever used it. It would lead into the sitting room, where probably no one ever sat, whereas the back door led into the kitchen, which was where life would be lived. He could hear Laura Dunn talking as he climbed the three steps to the door. The inner door was open, letting the sound of voices out, but the screen door was closed, making it difficult to see in. She was scolding one of the kids, by the sound of it, though Ian couldn’t make out the words because a baby was crying. Her voice wasn’t sharp and sarcastic, as Ian’s mother’s voice tended to be when she was annoyed about something. It was exasperated, but still gentle and light, or so it seemed to Ian.

There was a lull in the baby’s crying and Ian, standing on the top step with his hand lifted, ready to knock on the door, heard Laura Dunn say, “Well for goodness’ sake, Carter, couldn’t you share it? Couldn’t you let her have a turn?” And a boy’s voice said, “She never shares hers!” and a little girl’s voice wailed, “I do so!” and the baby started to howl again. There was the sound of a chair being scuffed along the floor and then the screen door was flung open, nearly knocking Ian off the step, and a boy charged out. He gave Ian a startled, angry glance before jumping off the steps and disappearing around the side of the house. He looked about twelve years old and had the sort of face, Ian thought, that made you want to hit him. The sullen, sulky face of a kid who thinks the world’s against him.

The screen door slammed closed again and Laura Dunn appeared behind it. She gave a start when she saw Ian standing there and said, “Oh! Oh . . . hello! It’s Ian, isn’t it? Dr. Christopherson’s son?”

“Yes,” Ian said. “Um, yes . . . um, I’ve come to talk to Mr. Dunn . . . about a job. I wondered if he’d be taking on anyone this summer. I mean, full-time this summer, but maybe Saturdays right away, and then full-time once the holidays start.”

He felt himself flushing. He was gabbling, because she was so near, just inches away behind the screen door, and she was looking at him, directly and only at him, with those wonderful soft eyes, eyes that he’d noticed always seemed shadowed, as if they contained deep, unfathomable mysteries, or—the possibility occurred to him now, what with the crying of the baby and the behavior of the kids—as if she were tired all the time.

“Oh,” she said. “Oh, well yes, I’m sure he’d be glad of some help. Just a minute, Ian. . . . I’ll come out. Just a minute.”

She disappeared. Ian heard her say something to somebody and then she reappeared with a baby in her arms. A little girl was behind her, but she shrank back when she saw Ian standing there. He moved down off the steps and Laura came out, bouncing the baby gently up and down on her hip. The baby was fat and sexless, like all babies, and had round, unconvincing tears rolling down its cheeks. It and Ian looked at each other and the baby gave a sort of snort, as if it didn’t think much of what it saw, and put its thumb in its mouth.

“There, now,” Laura said, brushing the top of its head with her lips. “That’s better. This is Ian. Say hello to Ian.”

“Hi,” Ian said. He smiled warily at the baby. It stared back and then curled up and buried its face in the folds of Laura’s dress, its free hand clutching possessively at her breast. Ian quickly looked down at his feet.

“The thing is, you’ll really need to speak to Arthur,” Laura was saying. “He’s plowing at the moment.” She nodded in the direction of the picture-postcard view of her husband. “If you’d like to go out and have a word with him . . . just along that track there.” She looked doubtfully at Ian’s bike. “Only I think you’d be better to walk. The horses cut up the path a bit. . . . But I’m sure he’ll be pleased—it’s so hard to get help. Men nowadays don’t know how to deal with horses, you see.” She smiled at him. “But maybe you like them. Is that why you’ve come?”

“Well, sort of,” Ian said. He hadn’t given the work of the farm—the actual job he was applying for—a thought. Arthur Dunn could have hitched his plow to a moose, for all he cared. At the moment all his attention was taken up with trying not to look at the baby, which had now, unbelievably, wormed its hand inside its mother’s dress and was tugging at what it found in there, all the while making fretful smacking noises with its lips.

Laura gently disengaged the small hand. “Shush,” she said to the baby. She smiled at Ian again, seeming not to notice his embarrassment. “Come back and let me know what he says, all right?”

Ian nodded, and turned, his mind filled to the brim with the nearness of her, her overwhelming presence, and made his way down the muddy track to where Arthur Dunn was plodding up and down the furrows behind his horses. Arthur Dunn, so solid, so dull, so obviously unworthy of such a wife. Arthur Dunn, who, when he saw Ian approaching, halted his team and came across the field to meet him, and said yeah, sure, he could use a hand, and would Ian like to start this coming Saturday?

Ian’s grandfather had been Struan’s first resident doctor, and when he’d answered the “Doctor Wanted” advertisement they’d put in a Toronto medical journal, the grateful townspeople built him a house just a block west of Main Street, a couple of hundred yards from the lake. It was a handsome wooden structure, white-painted and green-trimmed, with lawns on all four sides and a white picket fence surrounding the lawns. In the early days there was a neat white stable for the horse and buggy twenty yards from the house. Later the first Dr. Christopherson acquired a Buick Roadster, which became as much a part of him as his old black leather medical bag, and a garage was added beside the stable. He kept the horse for use in winter, when the back roads around Struan were impassable by anything except a sled. His son, the present Dr. Christopherson (who also drove a Buick, though his was the sedan), was sometimes heard lamenting the absence of the sled even now, given the state of the town’s one and only snowplow.

As much as anything else, the building of the house had been a statement of faith on the part of the people of Struan. Until then they’d had to go to New Liskeard if they required a doctor, and if you needed medical help badly enough to make the journey to New Liskeard, the odds were that you were in no state to make the journey. Getting their own doctor was a sign that the town had arrived. In the brief interval between applying the final coat of paint and the arrival of Dr. Christopherson, the people of Struan found excuses to walk past the house and admire it. You looked at that house and you thought, this is no fly-by-night northern settlement sprung up around a sawmill; any town that can afford to build its doctor a house like this is here to stay.

Ian was aware of most of this personal and civic history, and as far as he was concerned his grandfather must have been raving mad. Imagine voluntarily leaving a city like Toronto to come to a hick town like Struan. And though you could excuse his grandfather’s mistake on the grounds of ignorance—he couldn’t have had any real idea what he was coming to—there was no such excuse for Ian’s father. He had been born and brought up in Struan, and had then escaped, but after living in Toronto for almost a decade while he took his medical degree and worked in the Sick Children’s Hospital, he had returned to Struan to take over his father’s practice. Ian couldn’t understand it. Why would anyone do such a thing? What was Struan, apart from a sawmill? A sorry bunch of stores lined up along a dusty main street, with nothing in them anyone would want to buy. A couple of churches. The Hudson’s Bay Company. A post office. A bank. Harper’s Restaurant. Ben’s Bar. A hotel—because, incredibly, some people chose to come to Struan for their holidays—and a little clutch of holiday cottages down by the lake. The lake was the town’s only asset, in Ian’s opinion. It was large—fifty miles long, north to south, and almost twenty miles across—and deep, and very clear, surrounded on all sides by low granite hills studded with spruce and wind-blasted pines. Its shore was so ragged with bays and inlets and islands that you could spend your life exploring and never find half of them. When Ian dreamed of leaving the town, which he did all the time nowadays, the thought of leaving the lake was the only thing that bothered him. The lake and Laura Dunn.

He parked his bike up against the veranda of the house, climbed the wide wooden steps to the porch, and went in. The door to his father’s office was closed and he could hear voices behind it, but the waiting room was empty, so Ian sat down on one of the dozen or so battered old chairs lining the walls and flicked through a two-year-old copy of Reader’s Digest while he thought about Laura Dunn. The wavy strands of her hair escaped from their elastic band and drifted around her face. Those shadowed eyes. Her breasts. He’d noticed—he couldn’t help noticing—that on the front of her dress there had been two wet circles where her breasts had leaked milk.

The door to the office opened and Ted Pickett, owner of Pickett’s Hardware, came out with his arm in a sling. He nodded at Ian and grimaced and Ian grimaced back. Patients entered the house by a side door but both the office and the waiting room were right off the hall, so all his life he’d been used to seeing people going in and out in varying degrees of anguish, and he’d got his responses down pat.

“He doesn’t think it’s broken,” Mr. Pickett said.

“That’s lucky,” Ian said.

“He thinks it’s just sprained. Hurts like hell though.”

Ian nodded sympathetically. “Did you fall off the ladder?” There was a ladder on wheels in the hardware store that Mr. Pickett scooted around on, reaching for nails or nuts or brackets or hinges, an accident waiting to happen.

“Yeah,” Mr. Pickett said, looking surprised. “How did you know?”

“I just . . . kind of . . . wondered,” Ian said politely.

When Mr. Pickett left he knocked on his father’s door and went in.

“I’ve got a job,” he said. His father had his back to him. He was rolling bandages and placing them neatly back in their drawer. His desk was littered with papers—patients’ notes, medical journals, bills—but the tools of his trade were always properly put away.

“That was quick,” he said.

“Arthur Dunn’s farm,” Ian said. “He said I could start Saturday.”

His father turned around and took off his glasses and blinked at him. “Arthur Dunn’s farm?”

“Yes, you know . . . doing . . . farm work.”

“Farm work.” His father nodded vaguely, as if trying to imagine it.

“I thought I’d like something outdoors,” Ian said.

Dr. Christopherson put his glasses back on and looked out the window. It had just started to rain. “Yes,” he said doubtfully. “Well . . . if that’s what you want. Arthur’s a nice fellow.” He looked dubiously at Ian. “It’ll be hard work, you know.”

“I know,” Ian said.

“Did you see the horses?”


“Magnificent animals.”

“Yes,” Ian said, though he had barely noticed them. He and his father smiled at each other, glad to be in agreement. They were usually in agreement, unlike Ian and his mother.

Next he went and told his mother, who was watching I Love Lucy in the living room. Television had finally—finally!—reached Struan a couple of months earlier, proof, if more were needed, of how backward things were up here. Ian’s mother had disapproved of it at first, but now she watched it more than he did. In fact, just lately she seemed to watch it all the time. She was supposed to be in with his father—she was his nurse—but apart from the odd emergency, Ian hadn’t seen her in the office for weeks.

“Mum?” he said, standing in the doorway. She was in one of her absent moods—he could tell even though he couldn’t see her face. She had two moods nowadays, absent or annoyed, and whichever one she was in he invariably found he preferred the other.

“Mum?” he said again. She turned her head a few degrees, not taking her eyes off the screen.

“I’ve got a job,” Ian said.

She turned a little more and met his eyes, and he saw the glazed look fade as she focused on him.

“What was that?” she said.

“I said I’ve got a job.”

“Oh,” she said. She smiled at him. “That’s good.” She turned back to the television. Ian waited a minute but there was no further response, so he went into the kitchen to get a reaction from Mrs. Tuttle instead. She was breading chicken pieces for supper, dipping each piece in a bowl of beaten egg and then slapping it back and forth in a dish of bread crumbs.

“I’ve got a job, Mrs. Tuttle,” Ian said.

“Have you now?” she said, placing a breaded breast down on the baking tray and taking a pale, slippery-looking chicken leg from the hacked-up carcass on the chopping board. “That’s exciting. What is it?”

“Helping Mr. Dunn on his farm.”

She paused, then turned her head to look at him. Her glasses were splattered with the day’s cooking—a dusting of flour from the tea biscuits, a little smear of butter, a scattering of crumbs—even what looked to be a shred of carrot peel. “Goodness!” she said, ducking her head in order to look over the top of them. “Whatever did you want a job like that for?” Which was what he’d expected her to say, and therefore satisfying in its way, so he smiled at her and left.

His mother was still in front of the television when he passed the living room door on his way upstairs; I Love Lucy had finished and she was watching a program in French. It struck Ian as strange, because she didn’t speak French. He wondered if anyone else’s mother watched television during the day. It was hard to know. The mothers of most of his friends were farmers’ wives and didn’t have time to sit down, much less watch TV. But his mother had never been like other people’s mothers. She didn’t come from the north—she was an outsider, from Vancouver originally. She wore smart shoes with heels, even around the house, and skirts with sweaters that matched, and had her hair set in loose waves instead of tight little corkscrews like the mothers of his friends. In the evenings, she and Ian and his father ate formally in the dining room, instead of at the kitchen table. They used napkins–proper white linen ones, washed and starched and ironed by Mrs. Tuttle every Monday. Ian suspected that no one else in the whole of Struan would have the first idea what to do with a napkin.

Reading Group Guide

Mary Lawson’s first novel, Crow Lake, mesmerized readers across the country and became a New York Times bestseller, a rare achievement for a debut author. With The Other Side of the Bridge she enchants us again, weaving together the stories of two families as they seek solace and redemption across two generations.

Set against the backdrop of northern Ontario’s haunting landscapes, The Other Side of the Bridge opens with an unforgettable image of Arthur and Jake Dunn, two brothers whose jealousies will take them beyond the edge of reason, to a deadly point of no return. The sons of a farmer, they come of age during the 1930s, when money is tight and a world war is looming. When a beautiful young woman named Laura moves into their community, she unwittingly propels their sibling rivalry to its breaking point.

Years later, the local doctor’s son, Ian, takes a job at the Dunn farm. His mother has left the family, and he develops a troubling attachment to Laura. As he desperately searches for direction in his own life, he stumbles onto a secret that forever alters the course of Arthur’s. With vivid scenes and stunning twists, this is a novel rich with conversation topics.

The questions and discussion subjects that follow are intended to enhance your reading of Mary Lawson’s The Other Side of the Bridge We hope they will enrich your experience of this magnificent novel.

1. How were you affected by the novel’s prologue? What did you discover about Arthur and Jake in this scene? How did your perceptions of the brothers change throughout the book?

2. How would you answer the questions that conclude the prologue? What accounts for the differences between those who follow the rules, like Arthur, and those who defy them? Which came more easily for you as an adolescent: obedience or defiance?

3. How were Jake and Arthur affected by their family dynamic? Did their mother pamper Jake too much? Did their father favor Arthur because he was easier to manage, or was Jake difficult to manage because of his father’s favoritism?

4. What was the effect of the novel’s timeline? How did it compare to your own experience of the continuum between present moments and memory? What parallels run between Ian’s life and Arthur’s?

5. Discuss the use of the headlines that open each chapter. What do they say about the local and global concerns of humanity? In what way were the headlines timeless, and in what way did they convey the unique attributes of this locale? What headlines would be most significant in marking the chapters of your life?

6. What is the significance of the two time periods in the lives of the characters? How were the Dunn brothers shaped by a youth of economic hardship and the presence of POWs? How was Ian shaped by an era of greater liberation, with television for entertainment and “risqué” music on the radio? What dreams for the future did each of these generations possess?

7. Discuss the nature of love and marriage as described in the novel. What made Jake so irresistible to Laura? What made Dr. Christopherson’s wife choose another man? Was Laura’s appeal strictly physical when she first moved to town? What is the riskiest romantic decision you have made?

8. How are the characters shaped by the novel’s setting? What do the natural surroundings of the town mean to them? What separates those who want to escape from those who bask in the town’s familiarity?

9. Why is Ian so transformed by the “day of the dragonflies” that concludes chapter nine? What did these memories mean to him?

10. Discuss the novel’s title. What does it mean for the characters to reach the other side of the bridge? Could Jake and Arthur ever be free of the wounds they inflicted on each other?

11. Who ultimately was responsible for Jake’s fall from the bridge? Who ultimately paid the price (literally, in terms of his medical bills, and figuratively as well)?

12. How did you react to the knowledge that Ian followed in his father’s footsteps after all? Did he make the right decision?

13. Laura confides in Arthur soon after meeting him, telling him she doesn’t believe that God cares about humanity (Chapter Ten). How would you have responded to her?

14. Discuss the cycles of tragedy conveyed in the Dunn family history, from the death of Arthur’s father to the closing scenes of Carter. How do characters cope with the concepts of fate versus intent? How do they cope with regret?

15. What common threads link the families in this novel to those in Crow Lake? What makes rural landscapes so appropriate for both of these storylines? Do you think people who grow up in cities feel the same passion for them as the characters in these two novels feel for the land?

16. If Matt Morrison, the brilliant and adored older brother in Crow Lake, had wandered into this book, which character do you think he would have had more in common with, Ian or Pete?

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Other Side of the Bridge 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 33 reviews.
SHASTALOVE More than 1 year ago
Arthur and Jake are brothers, opposite to the core. Arthur, uncommunicative, but responsible, is a bit slow but doesn't have a vindictive bone in his body. Jake, however, is the younger, handsome, charming, smart, spoiled, but irresponsible and careless of people's feelings and a bit cruel and manipulative. After years of being pushed around by his brother, Arthur does eventually break. By his own inaction he causes an accident to happen to Jake, and spends the rest of his life living through the guilt. This is an incredible, heartbreaking and heartwarming portrait weaving a story of love and loss, of family and their expectations. Wonderful lessons in life here!
Guest More than 1 year ago
What a magnificent book Mary Lawson has written. The most remarkable thing about it is the quiet assurance with which she writes a very even-keeled, almost uneventful, country coming-of-age story that in the end utterly devastates with its culminating events. I couldn't move--even to turn the page and keep reading the final few pages--in the minutes immediately after reading the climax. I was utterly lost in my own consideration of the myriad and colliding lines of moral culpability and human frailty and basic goodness that give the story its almost brute impact. For a second-time writer, that she exercises such restraint in drawing her characters is remarkable. All but one come across us utterly believable 'and that one almost succeeds'. And although the climactic event borders on the too-melodramatic, it still somehow works because *that* it could happen--that it almost had to happen--is so utterly credible. Based on reviews of her earlier book, Lawson is seen as a 'women's writer,' but this is really a story about boys and men, fathers and brothers. It's a story that any man with brothers or a relationship with his father that is less than fully open emotionally can and should read too.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is beautifully written and tells a captivating story. I had a hard time putting it down.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. It was gritty, real, tender, clever, insightful and conveyed a wondrous sense of place...and the author was so skillful as to make a sophisticated city reader identify (painfully) with the limited, taciturn but sympathetic Arthur Dunn. Highly recommended.
LinFromUtah More than 1 year ago
Sometimes it isn't the fast pace of the read, but the slowness of the rhythm that makes you fall in love with the characters, setting, and way of life. I liked the time difference within the book, from late 1930's through the war, but also the 1960's and the effects the past made on the present.
txwildflower More than 1 year ago
An engrossing story about two brothers growing up on a farm in the mid-30's who are completely different in every way. One is the mother's favorite and can do no wrong, the other follows his dad's footsteps in farming the land. They via for the same girl but the end is disastrous. A second great novel by the author Mary Lawson, whose first book "Crow Lake" was wonderful.
Romonko on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The whole idea of rivalry between brothers is timeless and has been around since Cain and Abel's time. But this book, although dealing with this age-old topic has a certain agelessness about it. Mary Lawson handles the subject with skill and with grace. The book is set in Northern Ontario. It covers the lives of two brothers for almost fifty years. Arthur is the oldest and he is the slow, steady and trustworthy brother who likes nothing better than helping his father on the farm. Jake is the younger brother and he is a hedonist - charming and sunny but not trustworthy. The two brothers are always competing for something whether it's a mother or father's love, marks in school or even the same woman. This rivalry goes on for the duration of the book which is almost fifty years, and we know that we are inexorably being drawn to a terrible conclusion. This is a powerful story that is very well written, filled with apprehension, tension and deceit. But there is hope in this book as well and we see this as we see the drama unfold through young Ian's eyes. I couldn't put it down.
astrida22 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In this follow-up to her acclaimed Crow Lake, Lawson again explores the moral quandaries of life in the Canadian North. At the story's poles are Arthur Dunn, a stolid, salt-of-the-earth farmer, and his brother, Jake, a handsome, smooth-talking snake in the grass, whose lifelong mutual resentments and betrayals culminate in a battle over the beautiful Laura, with Arthur, it seems, the unlikely winner. Observing, and eventually intervening in their saga, is Ian, a teenager who goes to work on Arthur's farm to get close to Laura, seeing in her the antithesis of the mother who abandoned his father and him. It's a standard romantic dilemma¿who to choose: the goodhearted but dull provider or the seductive but unreliable rogue?¿but it gains depth by being set in Lawson's epic narrative of the Northern Ontario town of Struan as it weathers Depression, war and the coming of television. It's a world of pristine landscapes and brutal winters, where beauty and harshness are inextricably intertwined, as when Ian brings home a puppy that gambols adorably about¿and then playfully kills Ian's even cuter pet bunny. Lawson's evocative writing untangles her characters' confused impulses toward city and country, love and hate, good and evil.
LynnB on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a story of human relationships: sibling rivalry, children of divorce, racism. It is about expectations and how we deal with them: Arthur who was reliable, Jake who was loved by his mother, Ian who wasn't enough to make his mother happy.The story is set during WW2, where two brothers, Arthur and Jake Dunn, aren't able to enlist (Arthur has flat feet and Jake limps). Arthur works on the family farm; Jake attends school. Arthur is solid and dependable; Jake is attractive and fun-loving. Their rivalry comes to a head over a new girl in town, Laura March, whom Arthur marries.The story is also set in the late 1950s/early 60s when Ian, the town doctor's son, takes a job helping Arthur on the farm. Mary Lawson is a brilliant writer. Like Crow Lake, she had me caring deeply for the characters and I literally had goosebumps readng the last chapters -- by then, I really knew these people and what happened to them seemed to almost happen to me, too.I hope there is a third book from Ms. Lawson soon!
kimbee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I bought this book 7 months ago and just read it now. I actually didn't think I'd get through it because it's not the genre I like reading. I'm so glad I read it. I finished it in 5 days. It was a great plot with fascinating characters.
punxsygal on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A series of stepping stones, trivial events each leading from one to the other. Move one and the outcome might be different. The 1930¿s. A farm in northern Ontario. Two brothers growing up. Jake is the clever one, spoiled by his mother, the daring one. Arthur is as solid as the earth he plows, dependable, reticent. One day finds the two young men on a bridge. It is a day that will change their lives. Now it is the 1950¿s and another young man, a teenager really, comes to the farm to help Arthur. And he, too, steps onto the first stone¿.This was a story of the interactions of two very different brothers and of the small events in lives that make up the greater whole. It is a story of place, and who belongs. It had me firmly in its gripe from the beginning. And I was pleased to find the Ms. Lawson had written another great book to follow her first, Crow Lake.
AJBraithwaite on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed this very much. Gentle but powerful.
Iudita on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a beautifully told story with an excellent ending. I loved the characters and the writing. One of my favourites.
jayne_charles on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed Crow Lake and was delighted that Mary Lawson had written another novel. This was another great read, lots of different strands of the story being drawn gradually together until they converged at the end. Lots of good, well fleshed-out characters, and some particularly moving passages covering the war years and their effects on the inhabitants of the town.
janismack on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A quiet book. Mary lawson has a way of drawing the reader in. She describes a family and a town in northern Ontario and a situation that forever alters many peoples lives. I liked it, you get an excellet feeling of time and place.
txwildflower on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Another great book by the author of "Crow Lake" where two brothers. who are complete opposites, try to live in the same family. One is very dominant and is his mother's favorite so can do no wrong and the other is more like his dad and wants to continue farming the land as past generations. A moving story that will keep you turning the pages until the end.
co_coyote on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Another interesting book from new author, Mary Lawson. Like her previous book, Crow Lake, this story of a family takes place in a small town in northern Canada. I found the characters not as finely drawn as in her previous book, but I liked the way the story wound back and forth from the past to the present. A good portrait, I think, of small town life in the 1940s.
tangledthread on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is very much like the author's previous work, Crow Lake. The setting is the same: northern Ontario during the 1950's. Again there are two brothers at odds with one another, untimely death of parents, disappointment, tragedy and abandonment. Then the author wraps up the story with an "everything is going to be okay" ending.It's an engaging read, although there is this feeling of dark foreboding lying beneath the surface through the entire book. One of the things I did not like about the book is the author's treatment of female characters. In this book they are only accessories to the plot and are generally weak and unimportant characters in the unfolding of the story. The previous book did have a central female character that was reasonably well developed.
juliette07 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A fine story of the joys and sorrows of life, relationships and shocking events. Set in the author¿s native Canada this book centres on the invented town of Struan. I use the word centres deliberately. The characters are fixed on their `place¿ and the narrative reflects time and again the impact of life and the characters¿ perceptions of life beyond their town. It is not only the characters who reflect, it was myself reading and taking in their point of view that made me ponder how differently the second world war must have seemed to those living lives so very far away, in such different circumstances. Much of Mary Lawson¿s prose is almost understated yet at the same time tremendously powerful. She intertwines a sense of place with her characters¿ sense of belonging and a way of life that may or may not continue. When Pete and Ian sit eye to eye with a myriad of dragonflies on a ledge formed of rock three billion years old, their communing with nature is almost palpable. The whole story encourages the reader to question the values by which we live and the influences that are brought to bear upon us as we make what turn out to be life changing decisions. As Ian thought about Jake following his return `it was hard to imagine Struan or anything in it being a part of Jake. He didn¿t look as if he had ever belonged¿. Yet Ian envied him, was taken in by his outward countenance and thought that he was `someone who had all the answers¿.This novel painted a real sense of place for me, place in time and the changing nature of place for us all wherever we are. Pete, who had a breadth of knowledge and understanding that Ian admired, chose to stay in that sacred place to make sure the tourists did not find all the best places to fish. This book raises questions of sustainability for caring for our `place¿, wherever that may be and however each one of us interprets that sense of place. An excellent book that will reverberate within me for some time.
cotto on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
loved this book. It's one of those simple, quiet stories about familial relationships. For me, those types of stories can either go one of two ways: a bore/cliche or meaningful. Lawson's book was a page turner and touching. It also made me really glad that I didn't have any siblings! Sometimes a sibling relationship can be extremely complex and drive you up the wall as this book discusses. When I hear about things like this, I'm somewhat happy that I just have to deal with myself and my relationship with the 'rents. I was surprised to find that the characters were based in rural Canada, albiet a fictional town. That was interesting to me as I don't recall ever reading a book based in Canada. Much of the book takes place during WWII and it was eye opening to see how the Canadian were affected and their views on the war as well.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a riveting, tale detailing the fine nuances of psychopathic behavior on the part of one sibling to another. One brother considers himself to be slow-witted and plodding, whereas the other appears ismart, electric, charming. In fact he is cruel. Underscoring the story is a social background of patriarchal judgement, equally cruel. Anthropologist Margaret Mead once said that every society creates it's own criminals, whose crimes are congruent with the culture we all share. A must read! Eleanor Cowan, author of : A History of a Pedophile's Wife
NanceeMarchinowski More than 1 year ago
Having recently read Crow Lake by Mary Lawson, I immediately purchased two more of her books. I'm impressed with the honesty and integrity with which this author weaves another earthy, gritty and realistic look at family relationships and friendship. Having grown up in a rural area, I could relate to the plights of farmers and the challenges they endured. This author has done her research and shared the hardships and family dynamics of rural life with credibility. Generations build upon one another in this haunting tale of the human condition. There is incredible depth throughout this compelling story of dysfunctional families, sibling rivalry, friendships, jealousy and so much more. The description of the Canadian countryside is pictorial and vivid through Lawson's imagery. The characters portrayed are convincing and plausible. I highly recommend The Other Side of the Bridge! It's a book that you won't want to put down. It will tug at your heartstrings and open your mind to a time in history that was oppressive for many.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great novel. Wonderful, interesting characters. Riveting plot. This book should win a "bunch" of prizes. A++++++ I wish I could give it 10 stars.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago