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He listened as their voices faded into the rumble of the falls. He was thinking about the lynx. The way it had looked at him, acknowledging his existence, then passing out of his life like smoke. . . It was the first thing—the only thing—that had managed, if only for a moment, to displace from his mind the image of the child. He had carried that image with him for a year now, and it had been a weight so great that sometimes he could hardly stand.
Mary Lawson’s beloved novels, Crow Lake and The Other Side of the Bridge, have delighted legions of readers around the world. The fictional, northern Ontario town of Struan, buried in the winter snows, is the vivid backdrop to her breathtaking new novel.
Roads End brings us a family unravelling in the aftermath of tragedy: 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.
Roads End is Mary Lawson at her best. In this masterful, enthralling, tender novel, which ranges from the Ontario silver rush of the early 1900s to swinging London in the 1960s, she gently reveals the intricacies and anguish of family life, the push and pull of responsibility and individual desire, the way we can face tragedy, and in time, hope to start again.
particular We Lived a Life and Then Some: The Life, Death, and Life of a Mining Town, by Charlie Angus and Brit Griffin (Between the Lines, 1996). I am indebted to Paul McLaren, owner of the wonderful Chat Noir Books in New Liskeard, Ontario, not only for telling me of the existence of this excellent and invaluable book, but for giving me his own copy. In a section of Road Ends set in England, there is reference to a painting by Paul Delaroche entitled The Execution of Lady Jane Grey, which
had stepped off the cliff purely and simply to punish Tom, as if he were speaking directly to him, saying, You don’t seem to care what I’ve been going through, you and this new friend you’re having such a good time with, so I’m going to show you. Take a look at this. He never thought about anything but death anymore. It was with him every waking moment and stalked his dreams at night. When he read the papers death leapt up at him. One single death or mass extinction, murder or genocide, war,
to get out and ask him why he was standing there in his bare feet. But what if he’d had some sort of breakdown, had suddenly lost his mind? In the circumstances that had to be a possibility. And if you’d stand in the snow on your porch in your bare feet, what was to stop you from walking down the steps and keeping on walking until you froze to death in the street? At this temperature it wouldn’t take long. At the end of the road he turned left, then left, then left again and rumbled slowly back
moment as if he’d never noticed her before and was wondering who she was. Then he looked out of the window for such a long time that Megan began to wonder if the interview was over and she should simply leave the room. But finally he looked back. “What sort of job do you expect to find in Toronto?” “I don’t know,” Megan said. “Anything. Waitressing. I’ll find something.” Her father nodded thoughtfully. “And how long do you expect it to take, working as a waitress, to save up enough money to go
at the Ritz and have their own private bathrooms, they’d come here instead.” Up until now Megan had never knowingly met anyone who fitted Annabelle and Peter’s description but she realized she had two examples right in front of her. The Montroses were exactly the sort of people who would stay in the sort of hotel they intended the Montrose to be. They weren’t exactly wealthy but they flew to Paris or Rome or Florence a couple of times a year and always stayed somewhere “nice.” They were taking