The Other Side Of The Bridge

Paperback | July 31, 2007

byMary Lawson

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From the author of the beloved #1 national bestseller Crow Lake comes an exceptional new novel of jealously, rivalry and the dangerous power of obsession.

Two brothers, Arthur and Jake Dunn, are the sons of a farmer in the mid-1930s, when life is tough and another world war is looming. Arthur is reticent, solid, dutiful and set to inherit the farm and his father’s character; Jake is younger, attractive, mercurial and dangerous to know – the family misfit. When a beautiful young woman comes into the community, the fragile balance of sibling rivalry tips over the edge.

Then there is Ian, the family’s next generation, and far too sure he knows the difference between right and wrong. By now it is the fifties, and the world has changed – a little, but not enough.

These two generations in the small town of Struan, Ontario, are tragically interlocked, linked by fate and community but separated by a war which devours its young men – its unimaginable horror reaching right into the heart of this remote corner of an empire. With her astonishing ability to turn the ratchet of tension slowly and delicately, Lawson builds their story to a shocking climax. Taut with apprehension, surprising us with moments of tenderness and humour, The Other Side of the Bridge is a compelling, humane and vividly evoked novel with an irresistible emotional undertow.

Arthur found himself staring down at the knife embedded in his foot. There was a surreal split second before the blood started to well up and then up it came, dark and thick as syrup.

Arthur looked at Jake and saw that he was staring at the knife. His expression was one of surprise, and this was something that Arthur wondered about later too. Was Jake surprised because he had never considered the possibility that he might be a less than perfect shot? Did he have that much confidence in himself, that little self-doubt?

Or was he merely surprised at how easy it was to give in to an impulse, and carry through the thought which lay in your mind? Simply to do whatever you wanted to do, and damn the consequences.

–from The Other Side of the Bridge


From the Hardcover edition.

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From the Publisher

From the author of the beloved #1 national bestseller Crow Lake comes an exceptional new novel of jealously, rivalry and the dangerous power of obsession.Two brothers, Arthur and Jake Dunn, are the sons of a farmer in the mid-1930s, when life is tough and another world war is looming. Arthur is reticent, solid, dutiful and set to inher...

Mary Lawson was born and brought up in a farming community in central Ontario. She moved to England in 1968, is married with two sons and lives in Kingston-upon-Thames. This is her second novel.From the Hardcover edition.

other books by Mary Lawson

Crow Lake
Crow Lake

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Road Ends

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Un hiver long et rude
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see all books by Mary Lawson
Format:PaperbackDimensions:368 pages, 8 × 5.2 × 0.96 inPublished:July 31, 2007Publisher:Knopf CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0676977472

ISBN - 13:9780676977479

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Customer Reviews of The Other Side Of The Bridge

Extra Content

Read from the Book

PrologueThere was a summer back when they were kids, when Arthur Dunn was thirteen or fourteen and his brother, Jake, was eight or nine, when for weeks on end Jake pestered Arthur to play the game he called knives. Jake had a great collection of knives at the time, everything from fancy little Swiss Army jackknives with dozens of attachments to a big sleek hunting knife with a runnel down one side for blood. It was the hunting knife that was to be used in the game because according to Jake it was the best for throwing.“Just once, okay?” Jake would say, dancing about barefoot in the dust of the farmyard, tossing the knife from hand to hand like a juggler, leaping back quickly if it decided to fall blade-first. “Come on, just once. It’ll only take a minute.”“I’m busy,” Arthur would say, and carry on with whatever task his father had set him to. It was the summer holidays and the list of tasks was unending, but it was better than going to school.“Come on,” Jake would say. “Come on. You’ll love it! It’s a really good game. Come on!”“I gotta fix this hinge.”Jake had explained the rules of the knife game to him and it was crazy. You stood at attention facing each other, about six feet apart, and took turns throwing the knife into the ground as close as possible to your opponent’s naked foot. You had to be barefoot, Jake explained, or there would be no point to the game. Wherever the knife landed, your opponent had to move his foot alongside it. The idea was to make him do the splits bit by bit, as slowly as possible. The more throws the better. The smaller the distance between the still-vibrating steel and the outer edge of your brother’s foot, the better. Nuts.But in the end, as they had both known he would, Jake wore Arthur down. That was Jake’s specialty–wearing people down.It was a warm evening in July, the end of a long hot day out in the fields, and Arthur was sitting on the back step doing nothing, which was always a mistake. Jake appeared around the corner of the house and saw him, and his eyes started to shine. Jake had dark blue eyes in a pale triangular face and hair the colour of wheat. At nine years old he was slight and reedy (frail was the word their mother used) and already good-looking, though not as good-looking as he would be later. Arthur, five years older, was big and slow and heavy, with sloping shoulders and a neck like an ox.Jake had the knife on him, of course. He always did; he carried it around in its own special sheath with its own special belt-loop, so as to be ready for anything. He started badgering Arthur right away, and eventually Arthur gave in just to get it over with.“Once, okay?” Arthur said. “Once. I play it once, now, and you never ask me again. Promise.”“Okay, okay, I promise! Let’s go.”And so it was that on that warm July evening when he was thirteen or fourteen years old–at any rate plenty old enough to know better – Arthur found himself standing behind the line his little brother had drawn in the dust, waiting to have a knife thrown at his bare and vulnerable feet. The dust felt hot, warmer than the air, and soft as talcum powder. It puffed up between his toes every time he took a step and turned them a pale and ghostly grey. Arthur’s feet were broad and meaty with red raw patches from his heavy farm boots. Jake’s feet were long and thin, delicate and blue-veined. Jake didn’t wear farm boots much. He was considered by their mother to be too young for farm labour, though Arthur hadn’t been too young at the same age.Jake had first throw, by virtue of it being his game and his knife. “Stand at attention,” he said. His eyes were fixed on Arthur’s left foot and he spoke in a hushed voice. He had a great feeling for the drama of the moment, had Jake. “Keep your feet together. Don’t move them, no matter what.”He took the knife by the blade and began swinging it loosely between finger and thumb. His forefinger rested easily in the blood runnel. He seemed scarcely to be holding the knife at all. Arthur watched the blade. In spite of himself, he felt his left foot curl inwards.“Keep it still,” Jake said. “I’m warning you.”Arthur forced his foot to lie flat. The thought came into his mind–not drifting gently in but appearing suddenly, fully formed, like a cold hard round little pebble – that Jake hated him. The thought had never occurred to him before but suddenly, there it was. Though he couldn’t imagine a reason. Surely he was the one who should have done the hating.The knife swung for a minute more, and then, in one swift graceful movement, Jake lifted his arm and threw, and the blade circled, drawing swift shining arcs in the air, and then buried itself deeply in the ground a couple of inches from the outside edge of Arthur’s foot. A beautiful throw.Jake’s eyes left the ground and he grinned at Arthur. “That’s one,” he said. “Your turn. Move your foot out to the knife.”Arthur moved his foot outwards to the edge of the knife and drew the blade from the ground. The skin on the top of his left foot was stinging, though nothing had touched it. He straightened up. Jake stood facing him, still grinning, arms at his sides, feet together. Eyes bright. Excited, but without fear. Without fear because – and Arthur saw this suddenly too – Jake knew that Arthur would never risk throwing really close.Arthur.From the Hardcover edition.

Bookclub Guide

1. How were you affected by the novel’s prologue? What did you discover about Arthur and Jake in this scene? How did your perceptions of the brothers change throughout the book?2. How would you answer the questions that conclude the prologue? What accounts for the differences between those who follow the rules, like Arthur, and those who defy them? Which came more easily for you as an adolescent: obedience or defiance?3. How were Jake and Arthur affected by their family dynamic? Did their mother pamper Jake too much? Did their father favor Arthur because he was easier to manage, or was Jake difficult to manage because of his father’s favoritism?4. What was the effect of the novel’s timeline? How did it compare to your own experience of the continuum between present moments and memory? What parallels run between Ian’s life and Arthur’s?5. Discuss the use of the headlines that open each chapter. What do they say about the local and global concerns of humanity? In what way were the headlines timeless, and in what way did they convey the unique attributes of this locale? What headlines would be most significant in marking the chapters of your life?6. What is the significance of the two time periods in the lives of the characters? How were the Dunn brothers shaped by a youth of economic hardship and the presence of POWs? How was Ian shaped by an era of greater liberation, with television for entertainment and “risqué” music on the radio? What dreams for the future did each of these generations possess?7. Discuss the nature of love and marriage as described in the novel. What made Jake so irresistible to Laura? What made Dr. Christopherson’s wife choose another man? Was Laura’s appeal strictly physical when she first moved to town? What is the riskiest romantic decision you have made?8. How are the characters shaped by the novel’s setting? What do the natural surroundings of the town mean to them? What separates those who want to escape from those who bask in the town’s familiarity?9. Why is Ian so transformed by the “day of the dragonflies” that concludes chapter nine? What did these memories mean to him?10. Discuss the novel’s title. What does it mean for the characters to reach the other side of the bridge? Could Jake and Arthur ever be free of the wounds they inflicted on each other?11. Who ultimately was responsible for Jake’s fall from the bridge? Who ultimately paid the price (literally, in terms of his medical bills, and figuratively as well)?12. How did you react to the knowledge that Ian followed in his father’s footsteps after all? Did he make the right decision?13. Laura confides in Arthur soon after meeting him, telling him she doesn’t believe that God cares about humanity (Chapter Ten). How would you have responded to her?14. Discuss the cycles of tragedy conveyed in the Dunn family history, from the death of Arthur’s father to the closing scenes of Carter. How do characters cope with the concepts of fate versus intent? How do they cope with regret?15. What common threads link the families in this novel to those in Crow Lake? What makes rural landscapes so appropriate for both of these storylines? Do you think people who grow up in cities feel the same passion for them as the characters in these two novels feel for the land?16. If Matt Morrison, the brilliant and adored older brother in Crow Lake, had wandered into this book, which character do you think he would have had more in common with, Ian or Pete?

Editorial Reviews

“Lawson’s gifts are enormous, especially her ability to write a literary work in a popular style. Her dialogue has perfect pitch, yet I’ve never read anyone better at articulating silence. Best of all, Lawson creates the most quotable images in Canadian literature.” —Toronto Star“I could not put it down, but perhaps better to say that I could not let it go or that it would not let me go . . . Lawson transported me into a place that I know does not exist by taking me deep down into the story of a family whose fate is inexorable and universal. Her reality became mine.” —Globe and Mail“One of the most eagerly awaited books of the autumn season. . . . The prologue draws you in, as does the novel, which is consistently well-written, involving and enjoyable to read. . . . Achingly real, known, [Arthur’s] inner life, with all its shifts in understanding, emotion, perception and conflicted impulses, is rendered with compelling force in concise, supple prose.” —Ottawa Citizen“[Lawson] returns to several of the themes that marked her brilliantly successful first novel, Crow Lake. . . . Lawson’s cornucopia of novelistic gifts, even more bounteously on display in her second book, includes handsome, satisfying sentences, vivid descriptions of physical work and landscape and an almost fiendish efficiency in building the feeling that something very bad is about to happen.” —National Post“An accomplished successor to [Crow Lake]. . . . With her cast of engaging characters, Lawson subtly but surely builds the dramatic tension toward a climax that changes the lives of both the Dunn and Christopherson families. Lawson’s story is a coming-of-age tale for two generations of young men, a community and a country.” —Quill & Quire“There’s something timid yet masterful in Lawson’s writing. She neither wastes nor wallows. Her characters do not so much develop as blossom into themselves, one petal after another. . . . This is a book you will be driven to share with friends.” —Gazette (Montreal)“A devastating story . . . about pushing fate and dealing with the consequences. The main characters of Arthur and Ian are expertly drawn.” —London Free PressFrom the Hardcover edition.