The Other Side of the Bridge by Mary Lawson


from back cover:
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.

Flash forward twenty years. It is now the 1950’s. Ian Christopherson, the naive and idealistic son of the local doctor, takes a summer 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.

These two generations in the small town of Struan are tragically linked by fate and community but separated by a war that devours its young men-its unimaginable horror reaching right into the heart of this remote corner of an empire. Taut with apprehension, yet surprising us with moments of tenderness and humor, The Other side of the Bridge is a compelling, humane, and vividly evoked novel with an irresistible emotional undertow.

I picked this up at a library book sale and am I glad I did! I thought it would just be a book to count towards the Canadian Book Challenge (don’t think I’m going to make it to the 13 needed!) and ended up absolutely loving this book! I can’t wait to read the others by Mary Lawson.

The story is told in alternating chapters. Two distinct stories in their own right, running together and intersecting. The story of Arthur Dunn and his brother Jake growing up in the 1930’s and Ian Christopherson’s story of coming to age in a small northern town in the 50’s. Ian and Arthur are the tie that bind the stories together. Slowly and gently taking us through the lives of these two men and building to the inescapable explosion between brothers.

I like stories about family struggles, we all have them don’t we? I love looking at the dynamic of relationships. This book hit home for me in two ways, Arthur has a ‘co-dependent’ relationship with his mother. He felt responsible for her happiness. Somewhere along the lines in their lives she sent that message to him. I had the same dynamic in my relationship with my mom. So I could identify with Arthur. There was Jake the brother whom the mom treated with kid gloves, I have a handicap brother. Same dynamic. With Ian one of his parents abandons the family and he has to learn to come to terms with that. My dad left us when I was a teenager.

The setting is really far north in Ontario Canada, small town life, farm life. Ms. Lawson puts you right there in that bitter cold winter. Pulls at your heartstrings when a horse gets sick in the middle of a blizzard, they can’t get to the vet. Ian has a Native Indian best friend from the reservation and we see the tensions between the Indians and the white man.Throw in World War II and the hardships and the terrible loss.

I loved Arthur and as much as you want to dislike Jake you have to wonder why? Why does he do the things he does? The dynamics between the brothers really is the crux of the story and it is a very well told one. I’m very glad she decided to tell this story from Arthur’s point of view instead of Jake’s. Their dad was a silent man and even though he doesn’t say much, I think his relationship with each of the boys speaks volumes. I can’t recommend this enough if you like family dramas!

Mary wrote three books set in this area. Crow Lake is the first then The Other Side of the Bridge and third is Road Ends set in Struan and brings back a couple characters from Crow Lake.

‘There had been many times in the past when Arthur had wanted to give Jake a bloody nose, but never more than this time. He fantasized about it for days – saw his fist make contact, the lovely rich blood running down – but whenever and however he pictured it, his mother’s face slid into the frame as well: the horror in her eyes, her bitter disappointment in him. So he didn’t do it.’

‘Arthur didn’t hate his brother, or not very often. Mostly he just didn’t understand hm. How did they get to be in the same family? What did Jake want? Because Arthur definitely go the feeling Jake wanted something; you could see it sometime: there was a fretfulness, a frustration – something indefinable behind the eyes.’

You can read about this author HERE
and watch an interview of her on the writing of this book HERE

Have you read this? What did you think?

This post is linked to Canadian Book Challenge over @Book Mine Set

Peggy Ann

3 thoughts on “The Other Side of the Bridge by Mary Lawson

  1. I haven't read this but I have read Crow Lake which I thought was a terrific read. Thanks for your review, I'll definitely keep an eye out for this one at the library.


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