Mary Lawson surprised herself with a fourth novel, A Town Called Solace, published this spring some 10 years after her last one, The Other Side of the Bridge. Once again, small-town Ontario is the setting for Lawson’s novel.
The town’s name reflects the themes of the novel. A family is thrown into chaos when a teen daughter goes missing after a disagreement with her mother. The younger sister, Clara, finds comfort in caring for an elderly neighbor’s cat. The neighbor, Mrs. Orchard, has been in the hospital for a number of weeks, and Clara misses her too.
And then a gentleman comes into town and moves into Mrs. Orchard’s house. He has not had anything to do with Mrs. Orchard since he was a young boy. Clara is suspicious of this intruder and is proven correct when she sees the police arrive on his doorstep.
Once the basic pieces are there, Lawson begins to weave her story of ordinary people going about their ordinary lives, often living with the hidden pieces of their pasts. Neighbors know much about each other. They also know little about each other. In her ominous and foreboding storytelling fashion, Lawson slowly unravels and then reconnects her characters. And Solace becomes the place of comfort and consolation its name signifies. (Alfred A Knopf Canada)