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#30authors: S.M. Hulse Recommends Road Ends by Mary Lawson

By Anovelsource @thenovellife

The one thing I’ve learned from six years of blogging is that bloggers are a huge community and authors are the coolest people ever.  Last year, Allison from The Book Wheel created an event to bring authors, bloggers and readers together.  I’m thrilled to be a small piece of the cog in the wheel {yup, pun intended}!  And immensely thrilled to host S.M. Hulse, author of Black River, on The Novel Life as she shares her review of Road Ends by Mary Lawson.


#30Authors is an annual event connecting readers, authors, and bloggers. Throughout the month of September, 30 authors review their favorite books on 30 blogs in 30 days. The event has been met with incredible support from and success within the literary community. In the six months following the event’s inaugural launch, the concept was published as an anthology by Velvet Morning Press (Legacy: An Anthology). Started by The Book Wheel, #30Authors remains active throughout the year and you can join in the fun by following along on Twitter at @30Authors, using the hashtag, #30Authors, or purchasing the anthology. To learn more about the event and to see the full schedule, please click here

#30authors Day 4 has S.M. Hulse reviewing Road Ends + an amazing #giveaway

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S.M. Hulse recommends Road Ends

road ends
The Cartwright family is a mess. Edward Cartwright spends most of his time at work, and when he’s home he shuts himself in his study. His wife, Emily, seems even more distant than usual, and eldest son Tom is away at school. The household is in disarray, and the only one holding it together is Megan, the second-eldest child and the only daughter. But as Mary Lawson’s Road Ends opens, Megan has had enough.

Megan has spent most of her life as the primary force of order in her chaotic family home, but at twenty-one she fears that if she doesn’t leave her small Canadian hometown now, she never will. In characteristic no-nonsense fashion, she discards most of her possessions, then informs her family of her intention to move to England. When she tells her boyfriend, he proposes marriage. Her only response: “Patrick, please.”

Things don’t immediately go as planned. Megan, who has never been to a city before, promptly has her suitcase stolen and discovers that the friend with whom she was planning to stay has moved to France. However, before long she finds work that makes use of her impressive organizational skills and she sets about building a life in London. It can be difficult to write about a character who is essentially happy, but many of the novel’s most satisfying scenes involve Megan growing in confidence as she goes about her daily routine: working at a hotel, living in a space that is hers and hers alone, flirting with the man who rents the room across the hall.

Like Lawson’s previous novels Crow Lake and The Other Side of the Bridge, Road Ends is set primarily in and around the fictional northern Ontario community of Struan. Also like those novels, Road Ends makes use of multiple timelines. While part of the book follows Megan’s experiences in England beginning in 1966, other portions of the novel chronicle the tribulations of Megan’s family in Struan in 1969. It is these portions of the novel that illustrate how very integral Megan was to her family’s basic functioning.

In Megan’s absence, her mother has—against medical advice—become pregnant and given birth to her ninth child. Emily Cartwright has always focused on her newborn children to the exclusion of the others, but this time her behavior is taken to extremes. Megan’s father, Edward, is not exactly oblivious to the changes in his wife, but does his best to pretend he doesn’t notice them—or anything else going on in the family home. Megan’s eldest brother, Tom, has experienced perhaps the most dramatic downward spiral, as he has abandoned his aeronautics studies in favor of driving a snowplow. Lost in the shuffle are Megan’s other brothers. The older ones can take care of themselves, more or less, but four-year-old Adam cannot and suffers from her absence the most.

While the utter helplessness of the Cartwright family can be frustrating, Lawson makes it clear that indifference isn’t to blame. Road Ends devotes as many pages to Edward and Tom as it does to Megan, and in these chapters, it becomes clear that Edward’s past has left him paralyzed, afraid to involve himself in his family’s affairs. Early in the book, he yells at two of his sons and later reflects: “I heard my father’s voice today. Like the echo of a nightmare.” Tom is similarly haunted by his past, though in his case he is troubled by more recent history, particularly his friend’s suicide and the events that precipitated it.

The greatest strength of Road Ends is Lawson’s ability to deeply imbue each of her characters with an authentic humanity. They are flawed people, and readers may not approve of each of their actions, but they will absolutely understand them. Even relatively minor characters, like Struan’s former reverend, are fully formed individuals whose pasts affect their presents. (Readers familiar with Lawson’s previous work will be delighted to find that two other minor characters are familiar faces from Crow Lake.) The town of Struan, it should be noted, is a character in its own right, a complex entity with a long history and both positive and negative attributes.

Inevitably, Megan’s storyline once again intersects with that of the rest of her family. Tom has been reluctantly taking care of Adam’s most basic needs, but when he makes a discovery that proves Adam has been neglected more deeply than he realized, Tom calls Megan in England and asks her to come home. Megan must decide whether she has given her family enough, and whether returning is really the best thing for them—and for her. Some readers might wish that Megan’s choice were a bit more wrenching than it turns out to be—some potentially-significant factors are undercut somewhat as the novel draws to a close, and an opportunity arises the timing of which might generously be termed “convenient”—but Megan’s decision remains a difficult one for myriad reasons Lawson has deftly illustrated over the course of the book. Road Ends is an excellent novel with a deeply rooted sense of place, a strong cast of flawed but sympathetic characters, and an ending that satisfies.

Photo Credit: Rick Singer Photography

Photo Credit: Rick Singer Photography

S. M. Hulse is the author of the novel Black River, which has been long-listed for the 2015 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize and was an American Booksellers Association Indies Introduce title, an Amazon Best Book of the Month, and an Indie Next List pick. Her stories have appeared in Willow Springs, Witness, and Salamander. Hulse received her M.F.A. from the University of Oregon and was a fiction fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She lives in Spokane, Washington. 

Learn more about Ms. Hulse on her website or connect on Facebook or Twitter. Add Black River to your Goodreads shelf and purchase Black River from Amazon or IndieBound.

Find out more about Mary Lawson, author of Road Ends on her website or Goodreads.  And after reading that review I know you want a copy of Road Ends for yourself, right! Purchase from Amazon or IndieBound.

A tremendous shout out to Allison for the creation and continuation of the #30authors event! And a huge thank you to Ms. Hulse for joining us today, sharing a new-to-me author that I’m anxious to read.

Lovely Readers, Allison has the best Entry-Form">Entry-Form">Entry-Form">Entry-Form">giveaway in celebration of #30authors.  Check out the lineup of 18 books + more at The Book Wheel Blog.

With wishes for an uninterrupted reading day and copious amounts of hot tea {or coffee}!


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