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Summary

Brought to you by Penguin.

Discover this powerful novel about a family falling apart, from the Booker-longlisted author of A Town Called Solace.

Twenty-one-year-old Megan Cartwright has never been outside the small town she was born in, but one winter's day, in 1966, she leaves everything behind and sets out for London. Ahead of her is a glittering new life, just waiting for her to claim it.

But left behind, her family begins to unravel. Disturbing letters from home begin to arrive, and torn between her independence and family ties, Megan must make an impossible choice.

©2014 Mary Lawson (P)2022 Penguin Audio

Critic reviews

"Tender and surprising.... A vivid and evocative tale." (New York Times)

"Every bit as good as I expected. A heart-aching and beautifully written story of a family falling apart." (Woman and Home)

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Brilliant



This is one of those special books: over ten hours listening and you don’t want it to end. I loved A Town like Solace , Mary Lawson’s earlier novel reviewed on my Audible Listener Page. and I loved this even more.

The story runs through the three years from 1966 ,alternating between the accounts of the three main members of the ever increasing Cartwright family living in the snow drifts of northern Canada. Meg is the only daughter of the nine boys born to Edward and Emily and it has always fallen to her from early childhood to manage the wildly dysfunctional family, including her frail mother closeted in her bedroom with the latest baby at her breast and her totally ineffectual thwarted intellectual bank manager father hiding from his disintegrating family in his studies of ancient Rome , excusing his abject failures to himself on the grounds that Emily had made him marry her on the cusp of his departure in WW2 when he had ceased to love her and that he had never wanted any of the children anyway.
At the age of 21, Meg makes the break she has to if she is not to be a life-long drudge. She travels to England, finally becomes a hotel manager and falls deeply in love with a man she knows in her heart will never marry her. During her absence the family falls into more calamitous dysfunction with little Adam, Meg’s favourite, underfed and sleeping in stinking urine-soaked bedding, mother Emily blithely neglectful and withdrawn with yet another newborn, the twin boys accused of arson and poor Tom, the graduate hope of the family, riven by grief and guilt at the death of his friend. It is Tom who finally rings Meg, counting the expensive seconds, and tells her she must return.
What makes Road Ends so brilliant are the deftly drawn and detailed lives of the individuals which which have made this family what it is . Tom, unable to hold down any other job, drives a gigantic snowplough up to the sign which warns Road Ends before a terrible drop above the river – a powerful metaphor for this family teetering on the edge of annihilation whilst the fearful cold and stacks of snow reflect the frozen powerlessness of Meg and the family. The tragedy which festers inside Tom is powerfully presented ; father Edward’s own ferocious father and the fire which destroyed the family’s subsistence farm is a descriptive tour de force whilst the vivid diaries of Edward’s mother present an infinitely poignant account of her struggles. Meg’s aching longing for the man she loves but cannot have is palpable and deeply moving. All the characters – there are other more peripheral ones – are complex and so real that they go on living after the final line. The author’s great skill is in creating not merely the external behaviour of all these people, but also the complex experiences which have made them what they are.
The female narrator was much better than the two male voices which were rather flat.

1 person found this helpful

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Brilliant storyteller

Mary Lawson is a brilliant storyteller and interweaves the lives of three characters from within the same family wonderfully well. Some of the places and characters from her other novels come into this book which helps to create the world of the Canadian North. The only thing I found a bit disconcerting was the bizarre accent put on by the actor playing Megan for the English characters. It did wake me up out of the world of the novel a bit which was a shame. Other than that highly recommended listening!

1 person found this helpful

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Shame about the abrupt ending

Really enjoyed the story but felt there were too many unanswered questions at the end- what happened with Robert? What happened to Tom? Why did Meg cave so quickly? Perhaps Mary Lawson is planning a sequel…

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Mary Lawson I missed you.

I know I'm not alone in having looking forward to this long awaited book, not disappointed.

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Depressing story and entirely unbelievable

This disappointed me. The story line was pretty mediocre and hard to engage with as so very unlikely. The narration was monotonous.

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Dreary

Good narration but far too many dull descriptions of things and rather disjointed. I found it incomprehensible that the family were so dysfunctional and the mother had given birth to yet
Another baby but no one including the father had even been in to the bedroom to see her. They
Just ignored her and there was no food in the house so she wasn’t even being fed. Ridiculous. They were middle class well educated people so it didn’t ring true. Too much misery!

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Another great book from Mary Lawson

Beautifully written and narrated. Highly recommend this book. I loved A Town Called Solace - this is even better. The author has a wonderful ability to draw the reader/listener into the story.