December 10, 2006
The Other Side of the Bridge
The Other Side of the Bridge by Mary Lawson
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.
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 naïve 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.