A Town Called Solace – Mary Lawson

A Town Called Solace is the first book I’ve read by Canadian author Mary Lawson, and I think it will stay that way for a long time. This isn’t because I think Mary Lawson wrote a lousy book, but there are so many good writers to discover, and unfortunately, Mary Lawson didn’t quite enthuse me.


A Town Called Solace tells the story of the events and people of a small town called Solace. We listen to the story of the characters Elizabeth, Liam and Clara from themselves. Clara is a 7-year-old girl, Elizabeth is an ageing woman, and Liam is a middle-aged man.

I liked that Lawson created these three characters with the same skill. It must be challenging to describe a 7-year-old girl with a lot of problems and a newly divorced male character in his thirties at the same time. On top of that, there is a lonely older woman who has lost her husband and has no children.

A Town Called Solace - Mary Lawson

A Town Called Solace is not a novel that tells the same event through the eyes of different characters. They all have their own agenda and what they all have in common is that they live in Solace, and their lives somehow touch. I must say right away that I love the author’s characters. All of them are delicately created and very realistic characters, and you can empathize with them somehow. However, I cannot say the same for the story.

A Town Called Solace tells the story of a young girl’s family after she runs away from home and; a man who has left behind an unhappy marriage and, in fact, a sad life, and falls into a new life; a lonely woman who couldn’t have children and who unfortunately loved her neighbour’s child as her own and is now in the hospital.

Although each of these stories is beautifully written, they do not leave much behind for the reader. When I finished the book, I felt like I watched a cheap movie with good actors but a bit of a lousy script. The book’s ending is very predictable, ordinary and unexciting, so it doesn’t add much to the reader in general.

A Town Called Solace is one of those well-written, slice of small-town books that tell different but connected stories. I’ll probably forget in a few days because it’s a powerless and baseless book. It made me clearly see why I don’t want to read books nominated for the Booker Prize anymore. They are all the same.

A Town Called Solace - Mary Lawson

A Town Called Solace

A Town Called Solace – Longlisted for the 2021 Booker Prize

New York Times best-selling author Mary Lawson, acclaimed for digging into the “wilderness of the human heart”, 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: rebellious teenager Rose been missing for weeks with no word, and Rose’s younger sister, the feisty and fierce Clara, keeps a daily vigil at the living-room window, hoping for her sibling’s return.

Enter thirtyish Liam Kane, newly divorced, newly unemployed, newly arrived in this small northern town, where he promptly moves into the house next door–watched suspiciously by astonished and dismayed Clara, whose elderly friend, Mrs. Orchard, owns that home. Around the time of Rose’s disappearance, Mrs. Orchard was sent for a short stay in hospital, and Clara promised to keep an eye on the house and its remaining occupant, Mrs. Orchard’s cat, Moses. As the novel unfolds, so does the mystery of what has transpired between Mrs Orchard and the newly arrived stranger.

Told through three distinct, compelling points of view–Clara’s, Mrs. Orchard’s, and Liam Kane’s–A Town Called Solace cuts back and forth among these unforgettable characters to uncover the layers of grief, remorse, and love that connect families, both the ones we’re born into and the ones we choose. A Town Called Solace is a masterful, suspenseful and deeply humane novel by one of our great storytellers. 

Mary Lawson

Born in southwestern Ontario, she spent her childhood in Blackwell, Ontario, and is a distant relative of L. M. Montgomery, author of Anne of Green Gables. Her father worked as a research chemist. With a psychology degree in hand from McGill University, Lawson took a trip to Britain and ended up accepting a job as an industrial psychologist.

She married a British psychologist, Richard Mobbs. Lawson spent her summers in the north, and the landscape inspired her to use Northern Ontario as her settings for both her novels. Lawson later admitted that the Muskokas, where she spent her summers, “isn’t and never was the North”, but the area now called Cottage Country “felt like it” to people from the south. She has two grown-up sons and lives in Kingston-Upon-Thames.

Robert Fulford of the National Post wrote an article about Lawson describing her process towards becoming a novelist. After settling down, she wrote short fiction for women’s magazines and then graduated to her first novel. Lawson was in her 50s when she wrote it, and spent years perfecting it. She decided she disliked her first novel and then spent five more years writing until Crow Lake was complete. It took her 3 more years to find a publisher.

Her first novel, Crow Lake, was published in 22 countries and landed her a guest appearance on the Today Show, and several positive reviews in the New York Times, the Guardian, and many other publications. Her second novel, The Other Side of the Bridge, also did well. She received good reviews from The Independent, and the Toronto Star. This second novel held promise of being on the Maclean magazine’s list of Canadian bestsellers.

A French-language edition of Crow Lake was translated by Cécile Arnaud, was published as Le choix des Morrison by Belfond in 2003. A Town Called Solace was longlisted for the 2021 Booker Prize.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges: 

Read Around the World, A Great Journey

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