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The Other Side of the Bridge by Mary Lawson
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The Other Side of the Bridge (original 2006; edition 2007)

by Mary Lawson

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7373012,660 (4.05)64
Member:dylanwolf
Title:The Other Side of the Bridge
Authors:Mary Lawson
Info:Vintage (2007), Paperback, 288 pages
Collections:KEN - NAI
Rating:
Tags:Canada, tbr

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The Other Side of the Bridge by Mary Lawson (2006)

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"He stood alone in the silence of the night, remembering. In his mind's eye he saw the two of them – always saw them the same, standing together, faces turned upwards. Clouds pale against the blue-black of the night. Stars cold and bright. The moon hanging there, pale and brilliant, clouds drifting across it like smoke. The sky and the silent land beneath it stretching on, and on, and on, so that he and his father were shrunk to almost nothing by the vastness of it." (233)

Two brothers, Arthur and Jake Dunn, growing up on their family’s farm in the fictional community of Struan in northern Ontario in the 1930s, are polar opposites. Arthur is dependable, dutiful, and set to inherit the farm; Jake, the younger of the two, is handsome, insolent, and dangerous to know. When the beautiful Laura March moves to Struan, the fragile balance of the brothers’ rivalry is moved to teetering on the edge of catastrophe. Two decades later, young Ian Christopherson, son of Struan’s only doctor, is moved by his infatuation with Arthur’s wife to seek employment on the Dunn farm. The novel is fraught with deceit, rivalry, and obsession, played out over nearly half a century. The small northern community survives the Great Depression better than many, but not so World War II, which rocks it to its very core.

The Other Side of the Bridge moves gently back and forth in time, each chapter opening with headlines from local newspaper, the Timiskaming Speaker, including month and year, which allow readers to place themselves easily within the story and within history. Lawson’s prose is just beautiful, creating, as the Toronto Star has noted, some of the “most quotable images in Canadian literature.” Highly, highly recommended. ( )
5 vote lit_chick | Jul 16, 2014 |
This book is deceptively powerful and the last third read like a blistering thriller that had me on the edge of my seat and yet it’s Mary Lawson’s subtlety that is just so incredibly effective. For the setting, she returns to the rural northern Ontario area that was so evocative in her last book, Crow Lake.

Jake and Arthur Dunn, sons in a farm family in the 1930s, are as different as night and day. Arthur, the older son, loves the farm, works hard to help his father with all the work that’s involved with the running of a farm, and is the dutiful son in every way. Younger brother Jake is the wise guy who attracts girls and finds school easy and to his liking and never met a farm chore he liked or was willing to do. He is also the apple of his mother’s eye and quite obviously her favorite. Flash forward twenty years and Ian Christopherson, teenage son of the town’s doctor, takes a part-time job on the Dunn farm, attracted by Arthur’s beautiful wife Laura. He’s a young man whose emotions have tied him in knots and much of the story points to an ultimate explosive situation.

Tying the two generations together is WWII which has devastating and long-lasting effects on this small town. Lawson chose the sumptuous complexity and non-linear construction that I’ve come to really love as she moved back and forth in time telling first Arthur’s story and then Ian’s. Lawson’s prose is elegant, evocative and beautiful.

”Her lips were quivering. You’d have thought after suffering such a loss nothing else would matter to her but that didn’t seem to be how it worked. She was fearful about everything now. It was as if she had finally seen the awful power of fate, its deviousness, the way it could wipe out in an instant the one thing you had been certain you could rely on, and now she was constantly looking over her shoulder trying to work out where the next blow might fall.” (Page194)

The climax is staggering in both its unexpectedness and emotional wallop and the denouement is absolutely pitch perfect, even if fairly predictable. Full of tenderness, compassion and humor, this spellbinding story of sibling rivalry is a gripping emotional roller coaster ride that will have you turning pages well into the night. Highly recommended. ( )
6 vote brenzi | Mar 25, 2014 |
Great characters, believable events, and simply a memorable story. "Crow Lake" was excellent; this is just as good. ( )
  maryreinert | Aug 17, 2013 |
I read this family drama from Canadian author, Mary Lawson, voraciously. I thought I was max'ed out on this genre but I found this quite engaging reading. Similar to her first novel, 'Crow Lake,' it is set in rural Canada, in a small town where everybody knows everybody. It toggles between two time periods circa the Depression and then WW2 focused mostly on one family and the rivalry between two brothers.

Excellent sense of setting, time, place and a great build-up of dramatic tension. I very much enjoyed the first 75% of the book. A bit predictable, but sometimes thats part of the fun - you want things to not turn out the way you know they are bound to. I think the denouement was rushed. She did such a spectacular job of setting things up but the ending wasn't particularly well executed which prevents this novel from being great a la Smiley's 'A Thousand Acres,' or Stegner's 'Rock Candy Mountain.' I don't say this too often but I actually think this book should have been longer.

Anyway, I very much enjoyed this and it was exactly the right book at the right time for me. I recommend it for those who like authors such as Jane Smiley, Elizabeth Strout, Ken Haruf. Falls short of literature per se, but she is perfecting her craft and I will look forward to her future work. ( )
  jhowell | May 23, 2013 |
This was a surprising and haunting read about two very different brothers and the people around them, set in rural Ontario during the depression and then the violent years of WWII. Although a story about the brothers (quiet Arthur the famer; and charming, model-gorgeous Jake, the reckless layabout), I thought the most interesting character was Ian, a boy on the cusp of carving his future who finds Saturday work at Arthur's farm. Ian takes the job because he has a crush on Arthur's wife, Laura, but it ends up being so much more than that. I liked his journey, how he finds solace and understanding in the peace of the land, the horses and the simplicity of Arthur's life. We see Ian struggle with whether to become someone worldly or follow in his Father's footsteps and become the local (underpaid and overworked) general practice doctor. There is both a simple beauty and sadness to this novel, but I could not put it down. It wanders along like a stream and the reader also sees horrific glimpses of the war and its toll on average, agricultural people trying to survive with the great loss of so many men. Lawson feels like a throwback both in style and subject matter, but she is well worth seeking out. I did not give this book five stars because the ending felt a little overly dramatic, almost Hollywood, with Jake's bloated return to Arthur's farm and a gruesome and unlikely end to the brothers' relationship, but it is a small grievance. This is a great novel and I highly recommend it. It sticks with you for a while. ( )
1 vote CarolynSchroeder | Apr 21, 2013 |
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There was a summer back when they were kids, when Arthur Dunn was thirteen or fourteen and his brother, Jake, was eight or nine, when for weeks on end Jake pestered Arthur to play the game he called knives.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385340389, Paperback)

From the author of the beloved #1 national bestseller Crow Lake comes an exceptional new novel of jealously, rivalry and the dangerous power of obsession.

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.

Then there is Ian, the family’s next generation, and far too sure he knows the difference between right and wrong. By now it is the fifties, and the world has changed – a little, but not enough.

These two generations in the small town of Struan, Ontario, are tragically interlocked, linked by fate and community but separated by a war which devours its young men – its unimaginable horror reaching right into the heart of this remote corner of an empire. With her astonishing ability to turn the ratchet of tension slowly and delicately, Lawson builds their story to a shocking climax. Taut with apprehension, surprising us with moments of tenderness and humour, The Other Side of the Bridge is a compelling, humane and vividly evoked novel with an irresistible emotional undertow.

Arthur found himself staring down at the knife embedded in his foot. There was a surreal split second before the blood started to well up and then up it came, dark and thick as syrup.

Arthur looked at Jake and saw that he was staring at the knife. His expression was one of surprise, and this was something that Arthur wondered about later too. Was Jake surprised because he had never considered the possibility that he might be a less than perfect shot? Did he have that much confidence in himself, that little self-doubt?

Or was he merely surprised at how easy it was to give in to an impulse, and carry through the thought which lay in your mind? Simply to do whatever you wanted to do, and damn the consequences.

–from The Other Side of the Bridge


From the Hardcover edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:05:28 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

The troubled relationship between two brothers--Arthur Dunn, the dutiful eldest son, and the mercurial, dangerous Jake--escalates when they are both drawn to a beautiful young woman.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 4 descriptions

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