December 10, 2006

The Other Side of the Bridge

The Other Side of the Bridge by Mary Lawson
Contemporary Fiction
Finished on 12/4/06
Rating: B+ (7/10 Good)

My husband and I live in a modest, two-story house that was built back in the 1930s. The rooms are fairly small, especially by today’s “Super-Size Me” standards, but we make do as it’s just the two of us. We’re willing to give up a lot (attached garage, decent closet space, walk-in pantry, jetted tub…) to live in a beautiful, tree-lined neighborhood where one actually knows (and socializes with!) one’s neighbors. One thing we weren’t willing to give up, however, is space for all our bookcases. (Yep, I got lucky and married someone who loves to read just as much as I do.)

Shortly after moving in, we discovered we had room for a couple of bookcases in our dining room. I found a style I liked at Pottery Barn and quickly placed my order for two, one for each side of the opening that leads into the living room. They’re not really “his” and “hers” since in addition to some of Rod’s nonfiction favorites, one has a couple of shelves devoted to family pictures and cookbooks (the latter of which one could argue do belong to Rod, as he benefits from my frequent use of them). However, the other bookcase – my bookcase - is full of books that I’ve read and loved and hope to someday read again. This is my “keeper” bookcase. (I’m working on filling another in the living room.)

I rarely re-read books, but my ultimate (yet, probably unrealistic) goal is to work through all my stacks of unread books so that someday I can start in on all my favorites for a second go-around. This is not to say that I never read a book twice (and I have mixed feelings about doing this, but I’ll save that for a future post). Not only did I read Mary Lawson’s debut novel Crow Lake twice, but I read it twice within one year (six months, to be precise). I was so impressed with Lawson’s lyrical prose, I decided to nominate it for a book group I’d recently joined. I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed it just as much the second time around, never growing bored with any of the familiar details or the absence of plot discovery.

I was thrilled to learn of Mary Lawson's new novel, The Other Side of the Bridge, and couldn’t wait to treat myself to a copy. I can’t say I was disappointed, but it certainly didn’t have the same magic as Crow Lake and was a bit of an uneven read. Not difficult to begin, but nothing about the two storylines took hold until about midway in. The characters weren’t quite as endearing as those in Crow Lake (I still smile when I remember the comic relief provided by precocious two-year-old Bo) and it lacked the strong sense of place I so loved in Lawson’s debut novel (although both are set in isolated rural communities in northern Canada). However, the family drama was just as intense as that in Crow Lake and I found myself holding my breath, my pulse quickening, as the final pages drew near, the proverbial train wreck unfolding before my eyes.

This novel has stayed with me much longer than I would’ve thought, given that I didn’t think it was a great book while reading it. However, I continue to think about Arthur, Ian and Laura (and even the despicable, devious Jake) and know that this is one I’ll read again. Probably not in the next six months (or even a year), but someday. You know, when I finish all those books in my To Be Read stacks.

A favorite paragraph:

“So what you doin’ for your birthday?” Arthur said. His voice, breaking in on the quiet, made Ian jump. Days spent with Arthur consisted of vast rolling plains of silence with the odd half-dozen words dropped into them like stones, and the stones always took him by surprise.

Publisher Blurb:

Two brothers, Arthur and Jake Dunn, are the sons of a local farmer in the mid-1930s, when life is tough and World War II is looming. Arthur is reticent, solid, dutiful, and set to inherit the farm and his father’s character; Jake is younger, attractive, mercurial – the family misfit. When a beautiful young woman arrives in the community, their frayed relationship comes close to the breaking point.

Flash forward twenty years. It is now the 1950s. Ian Christopherson, a na├»ve young man, accepts a job on the farm. Long obsessed with Arthur’s wife, Ian is like a fuse waiting to ignite the powder keg of emotions around him.


  1. Anonymous5:06 AM

    I loved Crow Lake. The premise of Lawson's new novel sounds interesting, and the quote describing Arthur's silence is beautifully done. Curious, isn't it, when a novel that we don't consider that special when reading it - continues to tease our consciousness.

  2. Anonymous7:06 AM

    This book wasn't really on my radar but after hearing your glowing review on it I will definitely add it to my TBR list. It really does sound good. I don't know what I was thinking that it was about before and why it hadn't sparked my interest.

  3. Anonymous8:06 AM

    Thans for the Crow Lake info. I hadn't ever picked it up but after seeing how much you enjoyed it I will have to add it to my bookmooch list- Stephanie www.thewrittenword.wordpress.com

  4. What a great sounding book. Good quote! I like the sound of having bookcases in a dining room.

  5. How can there ever be enough space for one's books? I have to move mine on from time to time, passing them not only to friends but to the teacher's lounge at school, and to GoodWill. I just have too many, because my house is small as well, and I haven't invested in good shelves like you. There's nothing better to decorate with, than books. It makes a house feel so cozy!

  6. Oh, dear, I'll have to look for Crow Lake. Did you review it or was that in your pre-blog days?

  7. Anonymous7:18 PM

    I loved, loved, loved Crow Lake! How disappointing to hear the half-hearted review of this one...although it has been so long since I read Crow Lake that I wouldn't be comparing it, so maybe it's worth a shot. Thanks for a well-rounded review.

  8. Thanks for the review of Crow Lake. Also, I loved hearing about your bookcases!

  9. Jenclair - Yes, this has definitely continued to stay with me. Such memorable characters. If you loved Crow Lake, I believe you'll enjoy this one, too. Maybe even love it. I came close to the latter.

    Iliana - Gosh, I didn't realize it was a glowing review, but I'm glad it came across that way rather than negative. It isn't a "great" book but I did enjoy it quite well. Have you read Crow Lake? Now that's a book I highly recommend!!

    Stephanie - You're welcome. Hope you get a copy. I'd give you mine, but it's delegated to my "keeper shelf." Sorry.

    Orange Blossom Goddess - Thanks. I'm surprised there weren't more quotes to jot down. I'll have to look back at Crow Lake and see if I found a few gems in it.

    I love our bookcases and was thrilled we had the space for them.

    Bellezza - Our house is small, too, but I've made room for all our books. They're in the living room, dining room, 3 bedrooms, and Rod's office in the basement. Hmmm, I forgot. I have a box or two of my daughter's childhood books in one of the closest. Guess I don't have enough room after all!

    Bookfool - Yep, I read Crow Lake in pre-blog days. Since it made my Top Ten one year, I'll get it posted. Some day! ;)

    Lisa - Give this book a chance. Maybe I was being too critical, hoping for another Crow Lake. If it makes any difference, I went back and forth between a B+ and A- rating.

    Bybee - I'll post a picture of the bookcases one of these days. Maybe on a Thursday Thirteen.

  10. Anonymous8:39 AM


    I loved Crow Lake, it was also one of my Top Ten reads last year.

    After reading your review, I am a little hesitant about The Other Side of the Bridge, however I did add it to my paperbackswap wish list. Since I have 100 credits I figure if I get it and don't love it I can still pass it on to someone else who may find it their best read: all for the cost of postage :)

    I love stopping by to read your blog, I don't get time to do so that often.

    Thinking of you and Rod during the holiday season, hoping that your granddaughter brings you much joy this time of year.


  11. Linda - I'm so glad you take the time to stop by my blog when you get a free minute. I wish I had time to join your online group again!

    You know, you may like The Other Side of the Bridge. It's not Crow Lake, but it was a pretty good read. Good enough that I want to hang on to it for now. Drop me a note and let me know how you like it if and when you read it. Since I moderate these comments, I'll see a comment from you even if it's a year down the road!

    Thanks so much for the kind wishes for me & Rod during this holiday season. We'll have our youngest daughter home for the holidays, but won't see our granddaughter until later next spring. Thank goodness she's old enough to chat a little bit on the phone. :)


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