Other Side of the Bridge (Lawson)

Book Reviews
There's an almost Sophoclean momentum as events rush to their end. The reader prays that inescapable harm will not come to good people. But the novel's true literary antecedent is in Genesis: the story of Esau and Jacob, brothers in a dysfunctional family where each parent has a favorite child and the younger son can think circles around the older. Lawson honors these archetypes by using them discreetly; biblical undertones simply add to the story's richness.The Other Side of the Bridge is an admirable novel. Its old-fashioned virtues were also apparent in Crow Lake—narrative clarity, emotional directness, moral context and lack of pretension—but Lawson has ripened as a writer, and this second novel is much broader and deeper. 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.
Frances Taliaferro - Washington Post


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


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


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 (Toronto)


“[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 (Canada)


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.
Publishers Weekly


At the center of Lawson's follow-up to her lauded debut, Crow Lake, are the antithetical personalities of two brothers the handsome and insidious Jake and Arthur, who's diffident and diligent. This stark contrast bursts into dangerous sibling rivalry when a girl named Laura comes between them. Lawson composes the novel in mutually enlightening chapters that vacillate between two different periods: the brothers' adolescence and early adulthood during World War II and a setting 20 years later, when Arthur and Laura are married, Jake has returned to Arthur's farm after a long absence, and Ian, a local boy who also is attracted to Laura, is working with Arthur. Lawson ingeniously uses this narrative structure to create immense tension by gradually disclosing the past Ian walks into and the unresolved hostility he unwittingly reignites in his adoration for Laura. The suspense of Arthur's impending explosion is a double-edged sword, though, as along the way his reticence depletes many events of their emotional impact. Despite this flaw, Lawson proves herself an adept chronicler of the conflicting dispositions and priorities that divide a family. Recommended for most fiction collections.
Library Journal


Lawson's melancholy saga of misspent youth, misplaced passion, and mistaken assumptions evinces both an enchanting delicacy and provocative vitality, and delivers an unerring sensitivity to place and time, people and passions. —Carol Haggas
Booklist


Another note-perfect take on coming of age in northern Canada, as beautiful as the landscape is stark, from Lawson. Jake and Arthur are as dissimilar as brothers can be. Arthur, stolid and strong, takes after their farmer father, which is a great help as the Depression hits even their self-sufficient village of Struan. Quicksilver younger brother Jake is their mother's favorite. She admires his good looks and wit, but is blind to his selfishness. The brothers are so different that the story's crisis feels inevitable. Assigned to walk cows to a neighbor's farm, Arthur patiently leads a nervous heifer over a rickety bridge, while Jake fools around on the bridge's underside. When Jake calls out that the cow's movements might make him fall, Arthur responds with one rare word, "Good," that will haunt him throughout life. Cut to 20 years later, and Arthur is in charge of the family farm, still silent, still suffering, despite a healthy family and lovely wife. This second story focuses on young Ian, the son of Struan's doctor, who obsesses over Arthur's wife. As he wrestles with his own legacy, he becomes more involved with Arthur's, bringing about an event that will lay bare several secrets. With all the elements of melodrama, Lawson instead crafts a deftly interwoven story of family and loss. Jake's not evil, just bored. He, like Ian's mother, isn't valued in this hardscrabble climate, where his father and brother miss his school play due to errands. "Farming's important. Work's important. Time he knew what matters and what doesn't." The calm and beauty of the setting pervade Lawson's second novel, intensifying the heartfelt pull of its simple human drama.
Kirkus Reviews

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