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4.5 out of 5 stars52
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This is the first novel I have read by Mary Lawson, which I was kindly lent to read in a review copy. The story takes place in the late 1960s although as certain characters look back on growing up it does span the earlier years of the Twentieth Century. The story itself isn’t told in a conventional way; instead it is told through three characters. Edward, who is the father, is told in the first person, and Tom and Megan, brother and sister, are told in the third person.

Set mainly in the small town of Struan, in Northern Ontario this does also take in other places, noticeably Sixties London. At the heart of this story though is a family, a very dysfunctional one at that. The father goes to work and spends his evenings in his study, whilst the mother, who is always seemingly having a new baby, is wrapped up in that, and lets everything else go to seed. Megan is the only girl in the house being surrounded by her brothers, and along with the cleaner who comes in a couple of times a week, really runs the household.

When Megan leaves home to seek out a new life in London, obviously the family starts falling to pieces. Why this works is that through the eyes of the three main characters you can see why the family is the way it is. Tom is feeling depressed and isolated by the suicide of his friend, as well as what led up to it, whereas through Edward you can see why the family is set on such a chaotic course.

I found I did enjoy this to quite a large extent, but I did at times get a bit annoyed at Megan’s experiences in London as from a bumpy start everything just seemed too pat and smooth for her after that, to a large extent. The dynamics and psychology of the family was very interesting, and although quite deep was easy to understand. This may make an interesting read for a book group, as there is quite a bit here that could lead to a good conversation.
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on 5 May 2015
I so enjoyed Lawson's first two novels so I came down with a huge bump with this novel which reads more like a first novel. The hidden tragedies of a small-town Canadian family are recounted in several voices but none is really distinct enough. The story of the daughter and her early years in London give us a flavour of the city in the 1960s but read almost like a book one would buy in a supermarket.
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on 6 January 2016
This was the first book that I have read by this author and I probably would not read another by her. As other reviewers have noted it is set in both Northern Ontario and London in the late 1960's and follows the story of Megan as she leaves home and attempts to make a new life for herself. It also describes how the family she leaves behind in Canada becomes increasingly dysfunctional and the effects that it has on everyone.

However, I did have some niggles. Several things just didn't seem to make sense, Megan is very naïve when she leaves home and seems to have no concept of life in a city, let alone one 3,000 miles away. While this adds to the story in part by the end of it Megan still doesn't seem to be much wiser and is totally dependent on her employers and male neighbour for social life. Back in Canada the family don't appear to talk to each other or even attend to the basics of life - food, washing etc. Also when the Mother has been told by the doctor that she should not have any more children, does she keep getting pregnant? There is no religious reason and the Father, Edward, states that they have separate rooms and he has never forced sex upon his wife? In fact it becomes apparent that communication between them is non existent. The eldest son, Tom, has flashes of trying to help but is bogged down with his own issues which limits his effectiveness.

Overall although the book has some good points and was quite sad in parts, I have read far better novels about families disintegrating than this one.
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on 11 March 2014
It pains me to say so but this novel is not nearly as good as the previous two. The Canadian wilderness gets very little mention as most of the action is town or city based and it seems the the author writes less convincingly about urban life. There is quite a lot of 'product placement' to help set the scene in London but the episodes there about Megan read very much like romantic fiction. The life of the family in Struan is distressing but it is hard to feel any sympathy for the non coping parents as the factors behind their plight are revealed too late and they are not likeable enough to carry the tale.Tom is the most convincing character and his trauma and position were the best plot features.
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Mary Lawson seems to have lost her magic touch in this her third novel set in Struan, Northern Ontario. Family life is once again played out against the bleak landscape of this remote region, where the characters struggle with disappointments, suppressed longings and wasted lives. I wanted so much to love this book as I loved her previous novels, the wonderful Crow Lake and The Other Side of the Bridge and was looking forward to meeting up again with some of the characters that so memorably populated them. But somehow it doesn’t quite come off this time around. The gloom and despondency, the dysfunctional family life, is so unalleviated by the tenderness and charm of the earlier stories that the writing descends into caricature at times. The switch from small-town isolation to 1960s London dissipates the atmosphere of loneliness and isolation that is so important for the trajectory of the first two books, and Megan’s life in the city becomes little more than a romantic comedy.
I can’t help feeling that maybe Lawson’s heart wasn’t in this one as much as it was before, and it feels in some ways just a publishing initiative to milk her previous success. Disappointing.
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on 17 December 2015
I loved reading Mary Lawson's, The Other Side of the Bridge and Crow Lake, set in the small town of Struan in the Canadian wilderness. The books had great originality and depth, the inhabitants and their lives were enthralling. I was excited to see that after a long wait, her new novel Road Ends finally appeared. However, although I still love Mary Lawson's writing style, the book seems unremittingly miserable. Not one of the characters in the novel seemed to have much happiness in their lives and were really not that likeable. Even Megan, who went to London and eventually found some lightness in her life had it cruelly snatched away. I don't think the the Megan in London story worked too well anyway, as it seemed somehow disjointed from the main storyline. However, I'm glad I read the book and I was by no means bored, but do hope that if there is another written by Mary Lawson, there will be more colour.

P
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on 12 August 2014
I loved Mary Lawson's previous 2 novels and looked forward to this one but it is not I. the same league.
It is still readable but quite frankly a bit dull and depressing. I gave it 3 stars for them glimmer of a better book hidden in the heart of this book.
Jamie
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on 14 November 2015
I loved this book. Mary Lawson takes you straight to the frozen north of Canada with all her stories. All the characters are believable and most are endearing. Beautifully written story.
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on 12 October 2015
I loved this book, which is about a dysfunctional Canadian family and a daughter's attempt to strike out on her own, trying to get away from the stifling responsibilities she has taken on in the family, basically colluding with their dysfunctional patterns. It is a gentle and believable portrait of the family, and not without its humour, particularly in the 'Amazon' who chivvies Tom to come out of his shell. Megan's no-nonsense character is very well drawn. The narrative gathers pace towards the end, as a final secret is revealed and threads are drawn together. This was a very absorbing and satisfying read.
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on 6 February 2015
Didn't like this book as much as other 2 books set in Struan, Northern Ontario. Backdrop is 1960s sharply contrasting life in "swinging" London to the desolation (figurative and actual) of rural Canada. It is about a family falling apart - REALLY falling apart. I felt the characters (without exception) so much less convincing than in previous novels. On one side of the world things seem to progress rather too neatly and on the other side things implode in an equally unconvincing way. I love Mary Lawson's writing but this is a far lesser novel than Crow Road and The Other Side of the Bridge.
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