Mary Lawson is a fine writer. If you enjoyed Crow Lake and The Other Side of the Bridge, then you will be happy to hear of her latest novel ‘Road Ends’. And if you are new to Lawson, then you have three very lovely Canadian novels to savour and enjoy whenever you have a chance to get lost in them. Though some of the characters return from the earlier novels, there is no need to read them in order. Lawson’s books are set in Northern Ontario where she grew up. The landscape of this area, especially in winter, is something she must feel in her very bones because she can make the reader feel it too. Surprisingly compelling despite being mostly character driven, the pages turn effortlessly and I find I don’t want her books to ever end. And when they do I want to recommend them to all my friends. One reviewer called her writing, “clean, clear and accessible.”
Road Ends is about a family that is unravelling. “Edward Cartwright, struggling to escape the legacy of a violent past; Emily, his wife, cloistered in her room with yet another new baby, increasingly unaware of events outside the bedroom door; Tom, their eldest son, twenty-five years old but home again, unable to come to terms with the death of a friend; and capable, formidable Megan, the sole daughter in a household of eight sons, who for years held the family together but has finally broken free and gone to England to try to make a life of her own.” The story is narrated by Tom, Edward, and Megan. Megan’s adjustment to life in chaotic, busy London when she’s only ever known rural Canada, is autobiographical. The author moved to London, met her husband and stayed to raise a family. She says she’s still confused about what to call ‘home’ and finds the Atlantic an annoying vast expanse separating her two favourites places.
Lawson’s strength is in her ability to convey the nuance in complex family relationship using a very easy, economical writing style. Emotion is conveyed but it is never cloying. She makes me care about these people. I can relate to them. I long to understand them, I hurt for them, I cheer for them, I fear for them, and in the end I have a hard time letting them go.