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Road Ends by Mary Lawson

Road Ends (2013)

by Mary Lawson

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Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
Took me a while to get into it. Almost half-way before I actually hooked into the characters. From there it goes pretty quickly. Kind of neat to encounter [b:Crow Lake|8646|Crow Lake|Mary Lawson|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1388187730s/8646.jpg|2744160] characters again, though it's been so long since I read that book, I don't remember much about them. Ends more abruptly than I expected, too, but the conclusion makes sense.
It was hard to read three character's stories at once. I see how knowing all the perspectives gives a better understanding of what's happening at the house and removes the reader's ability to completely blame one or the other, but just as I'd start to like Edward, the father, for example, and be interested in his story, it would end and I'd be back at Tom for a while. I wonder what it would be like to read all of Edward's chapters, then all of Tom's, then all of Meg's. A whole different experience, for sure. ( )
  LDVoorberg | Dec 3, 2017 |
I loved this book. It's a gentle, intimate portrait of a Northern Ontario family damaged by events of the past and struggling to make its way in the present. Beautiful. ( )
  AJBraithwaite | Aug 14, 2017 |
I liked this book a lot. It started rather slowly, I was just wondering what was going on with this family. As you start to discover everyone, you can only deduce that parents and parenting have a monumental influence on their children. Fear and neurotic tendencies are carried down from one generation to another. I was sad when it ended, I wanted to know what would happen to these characters. ( )
  janismack | Oct 14, 2016 |
Road Ends by Mary Lawson is a very highly recommended character study of three members of the Cartwright family, a family which is slowly, tragically falling apart.

Set in Straun, Ontario, and spanning 1966-1969, the large Cartwright family is heading for a breaking point. Lawson focuses her attention on three members of the family: Edward, Megan, and Tom.

Megan has been the caregiver, housekeeper, disciplinarian, and, really, the mother to all of her brothers for years. Her mother only wants to love and care for the babies but leaves the raising of her offspring to Meg, the second oldest and only daughter. Everyone has taken Meg for granted. Now 21 year old, Meg wants to experience life on her own and sets out to live with a friend in London. She has heard the doctor tell her mother and father no more children and she feels this is her chance to live her own life. Before she left, Meg "had started to wonder if her mother was going senile." She is sure that at 45, she can't be but was instead simply not listening to what people are telling her.

Tom, Meg's oldest brother is in the midst of a serious depression since the suicide of his life-long friend, Robert. Tom has a degree in aeronautical engineering, but he's staying in the family home in Straun, Ontario, driving a snow plow, or a lumber truck, just biding his time, reading newspapers, eating lunch at the diner, and becoming more and more closed and emotionally distant.

The father, Edward, is the manager of the local bank but he is purposefully and completely distant and isolated from his family. He eats his meals out, he stays late at the bank, he visits the library, and when home, he goes into his study and shuts the door, avoiding any responsibility or contact with his family. He never wanted the children and he expects his wife to raise them. Alternately, he is afraid if he does discipline his sons, he will become abusive like his father. He turns a blind eye to the problems around him and all the indications that something isn't quite right with Emily, his wife. Edward alternately dreams of visiting great cities and seeing treasured art work, while also reading what is left of the many years of his mother's diaries and trying to come to terms with his childhood.

Meg's arrival in England is fraught with challenges and disappointments at the beginning, but she overcomes these hurdles and with the help of a caring supervisor, manages to land a position that uses her skills at organizing and cleaning. Meg does miss her youngest brother, Adam. She sends him Matchbox cars and is hopeful that Tom will look out for him.

Back in Canada, out of his haze of depression, Tom notices that his younger brother, Adam, smells bad... and apparently has been left to go hungry with no one around to make sure he gets meals, baths, or clean clothes. His mother has had yet another baby and she is holed up in her room, with the baby, ignoring everything around her. His father is as mentally absent as Emily; both are living in their own world. Meg's absence has propelled the inevitable falling apart of the family since she was the caregiver who kept things going and organized.

This is an incredibly well written novel that is a complex character study over a few years of time in the lives of these members of the Cartwright family. While there won't be a lot of action or complex twists and turns, this is the kind of novel that those who love character studies will relish. It also has a distinctive Canadian feel to it. You sense the great burden of snow and more snow, with one blizzard following on the heels of the previous one. It reminded me of the novels of David Adams Richards, with the melancholy that seems to pervade everything. At the end, Lawson does give us a glimmer of hope, even amidst the increasing disappointments, and leaves the reader anticipating that beyond the story there is a hopeful future. It reminds me that even when bad things happen to people, ultimately good can come out of the struggles - that there is a reason for everything.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Random House for review purposes. ( )
  SheTreadsSoftly | Mar 21, 2016 |
“He listened as their voices faded into the rumble of the falls. He was thinking about the lynx. The way it had looked at him, acknowledging his existence, then passing out of his life like smoke … It was the first thing—the only thing—that had managed, if only for a moment, to displace from his mind the image of the child. He had carried that image with him for a year now, and it had been a weight so great that sometimes he could hardly stand.” (3)

The fictional, northern Ontario town of Struan, buried in winter snows and numbing cold is the backdrop for a family unravelling. Edward Cartwright, Struan’s bank manager, struggles to escape a violent past; Emily, his wife, lies cloistered in her room with yet another newborn; Tom, their eldest son, is lost in the death of a friend and unable to see his way clear of the tragedy; and capable, dependable Megan, the sole daughter in a family of eight sons, who has held the family together for years, has finally broken free and moved to England.

As with Crow Lake, Lawson has created in Road Ends another enthralling, tender tale of a family in northern Ontario. And again, I found myself turning pages into the night. Narrated in alternating chapters by Edward, Emily, Tom, and Megan, she gently reveals the complexity and anguish of family life, the struggle to balance responsibility and desire, and the way we can face tragedy, and, in time, hope to start again. Very highly recommended. ( )
3 vote lit_chick | Feb 21, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
Never mind Lord of the Flies or any of the other tired traditional offerings on the English syllabus. Every Canadian student should be reading Mary Lawson novels – starting with Crow Lake and now including her newest accomplishment, Road Ends....Like all great writers — and Lawson is among the finest — she tells her story in a deceptively simple and straightforward way, but one that resonates with anyone who has ever struggled with doing the right thing by a family member despite a desperate longing to escape that burden....Lawson’s writing is clean, clear and accessible. Her descriptions are strong, and her dialogue believable. Like Alistair MacLeod, Lawson writes of bone-searing tragedies without shrouding her novels in impenetrable darkness. She leaves room for light — and hope.
What preoccupies Lawson is families; specifically large, sibling-rich families pockmarked by tragedy. In her writing, Lawson has always been more about craftsmanship than innovation: What she does she does so impeccably that the triumph of duty over dreams seems somehow urgent and compelling.
This is a very readable book, its narrative compelling, its setting richly drawn, its characters sympathetic; you want things to end well, you feel badly for almost everyone. It does read, to some degree, like a retilling of ground already well worked over. The deck is a little too predictably stacked. The ending both necessary and maddening.
There is great tragedy and sadness, hardship and loss, and yet what sets Lawson apart is storytelling so matter-of-fact (in the best possible way) that readers are able to feel the emotional intensity of the characters’ situations without succumbing to moroseness. There is no drudgery, even when Lawson is describing the literal drudgery of running a farm or tending house.

Admirers of Lawson’s previous novels will not be disappointed with the author’s latest effort. The same easy grace and economy of language that drew readers into those earlier stories are employed to full effect, and the setting, along with the welcome reappearance of a few familiar characters, imparts a sense of homecoming....By the time Lawson ties her three protagonists’ stories tightly together at the end of the novel, we have come to know them for their distinct voices and personalities, and are relieved by the subtle hints the author has dropped along the way to indicate a more hopeful future. Redemption appears in many guises, and these characters, despite their flaws, feel greatly deserving of any that comes their way.
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In memory of my parents.
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The road was heavily overgrown and they had to stop the car half a dozen times in order to hack down shrubs or drag fallen trees aside. (Prologue, Struan, August 1967)
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345808088, Hardcover)

 The snowed-in town of Struan in the northern Ontario landscape of Road Ends is again the brilliant backdrop to Mary Lawson's new novel. And while it fully stands on its own, there are glimpses and references relating it to her 2 much loved earlier novels--beloved characters from Crow Lake reappear (including Luke and outspoken little Bo, who stole so many hearts: Bo now in her late teens, as captivating and forthright as ever). The individual small town characters are still with us, old, buried tales resurfacing, but here a new generation is growing up, dealing with chaos, loss and love and finding their way in the world--this time in the late '60s.
     A new family is at the centre of Mary's third novel--the Cartwrights--with its 5 children (from newborn infant to the rambunctious twins and their dependable older sister Meg, and Tom) and their father--a man absent in spirit if not in fact,--and mother, who dotes on giving birth to babies but is herself oddly and worryingly fading away. The gripping story is triggered by the suicide of young Tom Cartwright's best friend, Rob, after Rob has accidentally killed a child while drunk driving. Tom is devastated, and the tragedy will brings to the surface independent desires and needs, and leave the family deeply changed as it finds its way towards understanding and new beginnings.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:00:02 -0400)

"Set in a backwoods village in northern Canada, this is the story of a young woman who leaves her dysfunctional, male-dominated family to make a new life in London. With her dreamy mother abed upstairs, and her father passive in a house full of rambunctious, out of control male children from the age of 4-14, Megan has become the defacto mother, housekeeper, nurse, and lynchpin of her household. Wholly dependable, intelligent, lovely, they depend on her completely-- until one day she has had enough. She packs her bags and leaves for London knowing virtually no one. As she did in her previous two books, Mary Lawson flawlessly weaves the narration of Megan's life and love with the consequences of her departure at home, particularly for her youngest brother Adam, age 4, who has retreated into himself out of insecurity and neglect. Lawson is particularly fine in calibrating the emotional core of her characters, and the choice Megan must make, which, while poignant, in Lawson's hands is also an affirmation of what is, finally, universally important"--… (more)

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