One of the concerns I had with the last book I read (That Deadman Dance) was that I had such a difficult time “seeing” the setting. By contrast, Mary Lawson’s Road Ends is all about the lonely, isolating setting of 1960s Northern Ontario in the winter-time. The reader is stuck in a cold house with no escape, trapped with family members who can’t seem to find their way to each other.
There’s Emily, the mother, who keeps having children, only to lose interest when they cease being babies. There’s Edward, the father, who is lost amid all his children and feels disconnected from his dreams of travel and adventure. There’s Tom, who is rocked by the suicide of his close friend, and gets stuck in his childhood home after graduating from college. And there’s Megan, the one daughter, who flees from her role as caretaker to live in London, alone. Megan is the one person in the family who escapes, at the cost of any sort of connection at all.
I love a good book about a dysfunctional family, and this novel had so much going for it. I was loving it, flying through it even, until BANG, the ending clobbered me on the head. I thought that the resolution for one of the characters was so disappointing that I almost threw the book against the wall.
This got me thinking about endings, and how deeply picky I am. I complain when books wrap-up too easily (I guess I’m suspicious of happily-ever-after). I complain when books end with characters making bad decisions. I complain when books end without any justice at all. Have you read a book recently whose ending was deeply satisfying? Or one that deeply disappointed you?
You can find an interview with the author here, where she discusses how this book grew from her experience looking at Edvard Munch’s painting, The Scream. Her idea came from a plaque beside the painting that said, “His companions at the far side of the bridge appear to be unaware of his anguish.”
Interestingly, Lawson is a relative of L.M. Montgomery, who wrote Anne of Green Gables. She was also published later in life, transitioning from stay-at-home mother to published author after her children were adults.