Mary Lawson’s milieu is the tough life in remote northern Ontario. In The Other Side of the Bridge, she examines the relationships between parents and children and between brothers.
In the late 1930s, Arthur and Jake Dunn are a farmer’s sons. Jake was born after their mother had several miscarriages, and she has been so worried about him that he has not been made to work the farm, while Arthur works hard to help his father. Jake gets by on charm and recklessness, while Arthur tries to protect his mother by lying about the various fixes Jakes gets himself into. Arthur, who is quiet, solid, and dutiful, realizes at one point that Jake is purposefully making trouble for him.
Although his mother loves only Jake, Arthur has the moral high ground until a fateful accident on a bridge.
In the 1950s, Ian Christopherson is a high school student whose mother has left him and his father. He is harboring hatred for his mother for leaving and a disinclination to become a doctor like his father just because it’s expected. He also has a crush on Laura Dunn, Arthur Dunn’s wife, and asks for a summer job on the farm just so he can sometimes be around her. The couple seems content, but their relationship is more complex than he realizes until brother Jake comes home after having been gone for 15 years.
This novel is deeply affecting, dealing with long-suppressed emotions and intricate relationships. It is written in beautifully spare prose. Another great book from Lawson, who deserves a lot more attention than she seems to be getting.