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The Other Side of the Bridge Paperback – August 28, 2007

4.7 out of 5 stars 90 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this follow-up to her acclaimed Crow Lake, Lawson again explores the moral quandaries of life in the Canadian North. At the story's poles are Arthur Dunn, a stolid, salt-of-the-earth farmer, and his brother, Jake, a handsome, smooth-talking snake in the grass, whose lifelong mutual resentments and betrayals culminate in a battle over the beautiful Laura, with Arthur, it seems, the unlikely winner. Observing, and eventually intervening in their saga, is Ian, a teenager who goes to work on Arthur's farm to get close to Laura, seeing in her the antithesis of the mother who abandoned his father and him. It's a standard romantic dilemma—who to choose: the goodhearted but dull provider or the seductive but unreliable rogue?—but it gains depth by being set in Lawson's epic narrative of the Northern Ontario town of Struan as it weathers Depression, war and the coming of television. It's a world of pristine landscapes and brutal winters, where beauty and harshness are inextricably intertwined, as when Ian brings home a puppy that gambols adorably about—and then playfully kills Ian's even cuter pet bunny. Lawson's evocative writing untangles her characters' confused impulses toward city and country, love and hate, good and evil. (Oct. 3)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

It's an age-old story--two brothers in love with the same woman--but in Lawson's masterful hands, the emotive tale of Arthur and Jake Dunn and the young woman who comes between them takes on a luminous originality. Set in a backwoods village in northern Canada, the story flashes back to 1930 to establish the tenacity of the Dunn brothers' relationship, and leaps forward to 1950, where Lawson, following her fine debut, Crow Lake (2002), cannily introduces a fourth element to the standard love triangle. Young Ian Christopherson, son of the town's only doctor, takes a summer job working on Arthur's farm, not because he craves the grueling labor but simply to be closer to Dunn's wife, Laura. When Jake resurfaces after more than a decade's absence, Ian interprets Laura's changed behavior in ways that will have devastating consequences. Lawson's melancholy saga of misspent youth, misplaced passion, and mistaken assumptions evinces both an enchanting delicacy and provocative vitality, and delivers an unerring sensitivity to place and time, people and passions. Carol Haggas
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Dial Press Trade Paperback; Reprint edition (August 28, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385340389
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385340380
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (90 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #596,993 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There will be debate about which is the better book, Mary Lawson's first novel, Crow Lake, or this second, The Other Side of the Bridge. Both are quite well-written, engaging, readable, and memorable enough that I wanted my own copies to re-read, having initially read library copies. If I had to declare one better, it would be The Other Side of the Bridge, as more fully realized from start to finish. The characters are believably alive and humanly real, and what happens in their lives is equally believable. I'm sometimes reminded of Willa Cather, who created people I might have known in a setting unfamiliar to me. I'm looking forward to Mary Lawson's next novel.
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Format: Hardcover
From childhood, Arthur Dunn is burdened by his size and doleful personality. Living on a farm in remote Struan, in northern Canada, Arthur and his younger brother, Jake, make an uneasy peace with their differences: "Jake was a subtle bully, a devious bully." Jake has been blessed with a sunny personality, articulate and charismatic, his mother's blessing, a shining son with a world of promise ahead. In contrast, Arthur toils beside his father on the farm, but suffers the ignominy of a sluggish mind through years of school he endures for his mother's sake. A pivotal moment occurs between the brothers when Jake suffers a terrible accident, certainly his own fault, yet weight of blame shifts to Arthur, who can barely comprehend his own confused reaction: "He felt breathless with a kind of excitement, made up in equal parts of rage and retribution."

Thereafter a spirit of enmity grows between Jake and Arthur, one that will poison their relationship and inextricably tie them to the past. What began as a sly one-upmanship on Jake's part accelerates to a campaign, their mother Jake's unwitting pawn. As reliable as a farm animal, Arthur is predictable in every respect, unquestioning, obedient and focused on the survival of the family farm. Falling in love with the preacher's daughter, Laura is Arthur's undoing; as soon as the handsome, charming Jake realizes Arthur's predicament, the die is cast. Buffeted by economic insecurity and the devastation of a world war, the brothers act out their roles as if the terrible conclusion is preordained.

Arthur survives, his back bent to the work at hand. True to his nature, Arthur cleans up his brother's wreckage, yet is of little comfort to the mother casually devastated by Jake's two-line goodbye note.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This, Mary Lawson's second novel (her worthy) first is Crow Lake), is a flat-out stunner. A story quietly told but laden with tension and anxiety, beauty and depth. It will stay with me for a long time. It is sure to be my list of year's best reads. Will be giving it to friends over the holidays, too.
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Format: Paperback
We are far away in Northern Canada, in the small town of Struan. The life is rough, tough and simple. Or so it seems. We are in the years before, during and after World War 2, and we follow the lives of brothers Arthur and Jake, and Ian, son of the town's respected doctor. Arthur is the older brother to Jake, and their relationship has been bad almost since before Jake was born. Arthur is the one who works hard and who does his chores without complaining and without asking why he has to them. Arthur thinks a lot, doesn't talk much and hates going to school. Jake is the younger brother who is not all pleasant and nice. He doesn't like to work, not too hard anyway, he is quick and smart and he grows up to be a regular ladies man.

When World War 2 begins, neither of the brothers enlist, for different reasons, but they stay at home, while their friends go overseas to fight. Arthur devotes his time to farming and thinking and feeling guilty, while Jake seems to celebrate life by sleeping with as many girls as he can, drink and have fun.

The brothers never really find each other, and specially Arthur is consumed by guilt and thoughts, until they are both grown up, and the high school kid Ian enters their world. Or enters Arthur's world. Ian is at a point in his life where he needs to find out what he wants to do with the rest of it, and while thinking about this, he goes to work for Arthur on the farm he inherited from his parents. Jake is long gone, and life goes on in a quiet way. Until Jake suddenly surfaces again, and Ian senses that there is something more behind his visit than just feelings for the good ole family.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
..and was finally rewarded with this beautiful book. And no, it's not quite as wonderful as Crow Lake, but darn close.

I have always been angered by the parable of the Prodigal Son, wondering why the son who stayed at home was less important, less valued than the son who went away. This book explores that old parable and sets it on its ear. I won't bother with a plot synopsis, because others have already done that. I will talk about the difficult task the writer has set for herself. She tells a large part of this story from the viewpoint of the least interesting character, Arthur. Such is her gift that even though we are seeing the world through the dumbfounded eyes of the good son who remains on the farm, we still understand the pain and complexity of the emotional life swirling around him, even though it is almost completely lost on Arthur. I'm not quite sure how Lawson carried it off, but I can say that if you loved Crow Lake, you will not be disappointed.
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