I cuddled up with a true feel-good book last weekend which took me far, far away to a small, imaginary town in 1970s Ontario. A Town Called Solace by Mary Lawson is a novel about family, trust and personal dramas, big and small. Nothing earth-shattering here just a well-written, warm, everyday story which I really enjoyed.
Life throws together the unlikely combination of 8-year-old Clara, her neighbour, the elderly Mrs Orchard, and 35-year old Liam, Mrs Orchard’s one time charge. Clara’s life has been upended by her 16-year-old rebellious sister, Rose’s, disappearance from home. To make matters worse, Mrs Orchard, Clara’s neighbour, friend and fellow cat lover, has been admitted to hospital with a failing heart. Clara and Liam’s paths cross when he unexpectedly inherits Mrs Orchard’s house, a woman he can only faintly remember from his childhood.
Secrets hover over this novel, some buried in the past, others haunting Clara here and now. Her parents mistakenly thinking, like parents often do, that shielding their child from the truth is a way of protecting them. The narration jumps from Clara to Mrs Orchard to Liam and back, perfectly capturing their different mindsets and perspectives on life.
Confusingly, the blurb hints that this is a novel about a crime. It’s not. It’s more a novel about intergenerational friendships, the pain of unwanted childlessness, the exhaustion of parenting, starting afresh and leaving this life, all set in the context of a lovingly portrayed rural Canadian town.
A Town Called Solace by Mary Lawson is published by Chatto & Windus, 290 pages.