This one has them all!

Cover of The Other Side of the Bridge
A review of The Other Side of the Bridge by Mary Lawson

I recently attended a workshop featuring Nancy Pearl who many readers will recognize as the author of Book Lust and More Book Lust.  She was speaking of the four main "appeals" books have and how some readers read for one versus another. The four appeals are character, setting, story and language.  Some books feature one appeal  more than another, more story than language, or more character than setting.  Some books have all four appeals and I think The Other Side of the Bridge by Mary Lawson is one of those books.

For characters we have the brothers Arthur and Jake Dunn, two very different guys. Arthur  wants nothing more than to run the family farm whereas it's the last thing on Jake's mind.  Arthur is good, Jake not so.  They both fall for the same girl and this is at the heart of the story. Think East of Eden set in northern Canada.

And here is where setting is one of the appeals: the 1930’s in a small rural northern Ontario town with rich descriptions of landscapes and small town atmosphere.  World War II is around the corner and we read about its effects on the young men who volunteered and on the townspeople upon their return.  And that same setting some twenty years later when we’re introduced to Ian Christopherson who comes to work on Arthur’s farm. The story is told beautifully in alternating chapters.  We are transported in time from Arthur and Jake’s childhood to the adolescence of Ian some twenty years later.

If you’ve read Lawson’s first novel Crow Lake I don’t have to mention anything about the language except that it’s beautiful and is one of the reasons this book was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize.  And as for story it is richly layered with jealousy, rivalry, and family tragedy to name a few.  So please read it and see if it’s as appealing to you as it was to me!