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Adult Book of the Month

The Other Side of the Bridge by Mary Lawson
Published by Vintage in 2007

This story is set in Struan, a small remote town in northern Ontario, Canada. The local population is mainly involved in farming or working in the sawmill or local mine. The nearby Ojibway reserve has its own self-contained community.

In the opening chapter, in the mid-1930s, we meet Arthur Dunn and his younger brother Jake dramatically throwing knives at each other's feet. It soon emerges that Arthur is shy and responsible and essentially good while Jake is clever, handsome and unscrupulous. When World War 2 breaks out the young men of the area hurry to sign up but Arthur is rejected because of his flat feet. Shortly afterwards a beautiful young woman comes to live in the community and sibling rivalry and jealousy reach a peak. By the end of the war Arthur is almost the only survivor of his generation as the horrors of battle have touched a remote community.

As the story moves back and forth over the decades we also encounter the town doctor and his teenage son Ian. By this point Arthur has married and Ian is earning himself some pocket money by working on Arthur's farm. Ian's relationship with his father is sensitively portrayed when the two of them are left alone together after his mother moves away with another man.

The resentments, betrayals and guilt of local lives are revealed, in particular detail when Jake re-appears in the story, and the interweaving strands are pulled together. Tragic things happen during the course of the novel but there’s a positive, uplifting note that somehow wins out. This is a compelling and humane read – a tender story beautifully told.

‘This is a fine book - an enthralling read, both straightforward and wonderfully intricate.’ Penelope Lively The Guardian

‘The author draws her characters with unobtrusive humor and compassion, and she meets one of the fiction writer's most difficult challenges: to portray goodness believably, without sugar or sentiment.’ The Washington Post

Mary Lawson was born and brought up in a farming community in central Ontario. This is her second novel. Her first novel, Crow Lake, was translated into 19 languages and published in 21 countries. It was a New York Times bestseller and spent 75 weeks on the bestseller lists in her native Canada.