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Reviews of A Town Called Solace by Mary Lawson

A Town Called Solace

by Mary Lawson

A Town Called Solace by Mary Lawson X
A Town Called Solace by Mary Lawson
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2021, 304 pages

    Paperback:
    Jun 2022, 304 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
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About this Book

Book Summary

Mary Lawson is back after almost a decade with a fresh and timely novel that is different in subject but just as emotional and atmospheric as her beloved earlier work.

A Town Called Solace, the brilliant and emotionally radiant new novel from Mary Lawson, her first in nearly a decade, opens on a family in crisis. Sixteen-year-old Rose is missing. Angry and rebellious, she had a row with her mother, stormed out of the house and simply disappeared. Left behind is seven-year-old Clara, Rose's adoring little sister. Isolated by her parents' efforts to protect her from the truth, Clara is bewildered and distraught. Her sole comfort is Moses, the cat next door, whom she is looking after for his elderly owner, Mrs. Orchard, who went into hospital weeks ago and has still not returned.

Enter Liam Kane, mid-thirties, newly divorced, newly unemployed, newly arrived in this small northern town, who moves into Mrs. Orchard's house—where, in Clara's view, he emphatically does not belong. Within a matter of hours he receives a visit from the police. It seems he is suspected of a crime.

At the end of her life, Elizabeth Orchard is also thinking about a crime, one committed thirty years previously that had tragic consequences for two families, and in particular for one small child. She desperately wants to make amends before she dies.

Told through three distinct, compelling points of view, the novel cuts back and forth among these unforgettable characters to uncover the layers of grief, remorse, and love that connect them. A Town Called Solace is a masterful, suspenseful, darkly funny and deeply humane novel by one of our great storytellers.

One

CLARA

There were four boxes. Big ones. They must have lots of things in them because they were heavy, you could tell by the way the man walked when he carried them in, stooped over, knees bent. He brought them right into Mrs. Orchard's house, next door to Clara's, that first evening and put them on the floor in the living room and just left them there. That meant the boxes didn't have necessary things in them, things he needed straight away like pyjamas, or he'd have unpacked them.

The boxes were in the middle of the floor, which made Clara fidgety. Every time the man came into the living room he had to walk around them. If he'd put them against a wall he wouldn't have to do that and it would have looked much neater. And why would he bring them in from his car and then not unpack them? At first Clara had thought it meant that he was delivering them for Mrs. Orchard and she would unpack them herself when she got home. But she hadn't come home and the boxes were still there and so was...

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Reviews

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The author's considerable talent lies in creating unique and memorable characters, and she's at her best here. She brilliantly breathes life into Clara, Elizabeth and Liam as they experience losses, which they meet with resilience, making the most of their situations even as they struggle to understand how they've arrived at this point in their lives. A Town Called Solace is a quick, pleasant read, and I highly recommend it to those looking for a quiet, character-driven novel. Its subject matter makes it appropriate for all audiences, and it would make a great selection for book groups in particular...continued

Full Review (673 words)

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(Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

Media Reviews

Literary Review (UK)
This is Mary Lawson's fourth novel and I'd recommend a binge immersion. She has carved out a world in northern Ontario that's vividly, absorbingly real; she captures tones and voices with exactitude in writing that's idiomatic but never flashy and carries you along from midnight to dawn, oblivious of the time.

Saga (UK)
A lovely, gentle novel with edge.

The Globe and Mail (Canada)
That clear-eyed humanism—the sort that is rooted firmly in the reality of life, but holds out a glimmer of potential for a measured, minor-key redemption—is classic Mary Lawson.

Toronto Star (Canada)
A Town Called Solace is engrossing. It's delightful. It's satisfying: you'll chuckle, you'll grin with recognition, your eyes may well with tears... Lawson's plotting is deft, expert...It's a captivating tale suffused with wisdom and compassion.

2021 Booker Prize Judges
This deftly-structured novel draws together the stories of three people at three different stages in life, each of whom is grappling with loss. We were captivated by A Town Called Solace's beautifully paced, compassionate, sometimes wry examination of small-town lives.

Author Blurb Anne Tyler, author of Redhead by the Side of the Road
I've been trying to tell everybody I know about [Mary Lawson]... . [Each of her novels is] just a marvel.

Author Blurb Graham Norton, bestselling author of Holding and A Keeper
Poised, elegant prose, paired with quiet drama that will break your heart. The sort of book that seems as if it has always existed because of its timeless perfection.

Author Blurb Marina Endicott, author of Good to a Fault
An assured and engaging look at one of my favourite subjects: what we owe to other people. How long must we keep their secrets, and how long do we wait for those we love? Darkened by pain, A Town Called Solace is even so a kindly book; Clara's lost sister flashes through it like a red-winged blackbird. Warm, clear, and beautifully grounded in the bedrock of the Canadian Shield.

Author Blurb Rachel Joyce, author of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
I loved reading A Town Called Solace ... It's beautifully written and so finely crafted; told in the kind of prose I most admire because it takes what appears to be complicated and makes it clear... These interwoven stories of three people at different stages of life, and yet each struggling with their own form of loss and grief, will stay with me the way good friendships stay with you. It's already one of my favourite books of the year.

Author Blurb Toronto Public Library
Lawson is a graceful writer whose un-showy style always hides surprising depths.

Reader Reviews

Cathy Burgard

Quiet masterpiece
I read this book during Covid and it was solace for me. I can’t say enough the many ways I loved it. Authentic compelling characters, simple understated but superb writing style, and a profound understanding of the human heart. I wish Mary Lawson ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

The Canadian Shield

River surrounded by rock formations and trees in the Canadian ShieldIn the acknowledgments at the end of her book, A Town Called Solace, author Mary Lawson writes, "The town of Solace exists only in my imagination, but the setting is very real: the vast and beautiful area of lakes and rocks and forests known as the Canadian Shield, in Northern Ontario."

A continental shield is a large expanse of land where Precambrian rocks are exposed through the Earth's crust. These formations are ancient; the Precambrian era is the earliest of the planet's geological eras, encompassing all of the time before the evolutionary development of complex life. Some of the rocks found on continental shields are thought to be as old as the Earth itself (around 4.5 billion years). Shields appear on every continent, and they are...

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Read-Alikes

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