‘A Town Called Solace’ by Mary Lawson – Glorifying the Small Canadian Town


‘A Town Called Solace’ by Mary Lawson   (2021) – 292 pages


Solace is a small town in northern Canada that is far, far away from the big city of Toronto and its problems. This is a novel that centers on everyday life in this hometown – housework, cooking, cleaning, home repair, taking care of children. Nostalgia for small town life in northern Canada in the 1970s drives this novel.

The writing of Mary Lawson here is straightforward and as clear as a bell. In ‘Solace’, a simple style is used to confront difficult truths.

Our author Mary Lawson is a small town booster, a Canada booster, a far northern Canada booster. She wears her prejudices on her sleeve. That is obvious from the first few pages of ‘Solace’. With all the guns they have, these small Canadian towns probably still have their problems, although Canada does have smarter gun laws than the United States.

The chapters of ‘Solace’ are each told from the perspective of one of three people who live in the town: Elizabeth, Liam, and Clara. Childless Elizabeth is in an old folks home, and she knows she is dying. Her chapters are written in the first person. Liam, in his thirties, has inherited Elizabeth’s house and is temporarily staying there. He came from Toronto leaving behind a mundane accounting job and a failed marriage.

Be warned: think twice before you take those vows, because there is nothing, absolutely nothing, as lonely as a bad marriage.”

Liam has no more idea of what he was going to do next than he had the day he arrived. Clara is a seven year-old who takes care of the cat at Liam’s house. Clara is worried about her missing wayward teenage sister Rose who has run away from home. Liam’s and Clara’s chapters are written in the third person.

Much of the novel centers around the efforts to find the missing teenager, Clara’s sister Rose. Finding her is the number one goal of the town’s police chief. Here is Liam considering the police chief:

Liam nodded, thinking how easy this guy made life look, even when, as now, he was carrying a serious weight of worry and responsibility. How he knew his place in the world and to be in all senses at home in it.”

I expect the police chief of even a small northern Canadian town sometimes feels terribly uncomfortable with some of the aspects and responsibilities of his job.

If you are not interested in the home or family life in a small town, this probably is not the novel for you. But who are those who would really like this novel? If you like the novels of Anne Tyler (I’ve been an avid fan of Tyler for many, many years starting in 1977), you will probably like ‘Solace’.

‘A Town Called Solace’ has the strong emotional ending that you would expect in a novel like this, one that deals with life and change and death in a small town.


Grade:   A




2 responses to this post.

  1. I think I would like this. I read “Road Ends” many years ago and liked the gentle nature of the story, which also reminded me of Anne Tyler’s work. I have meant to read more of Lawson’s novels (I think Road Ends was part of a trilogy) but have just never got around to it.

    Liked by 1 person


    • Hi Kim,
      I was the world’s biggest Anne Tyler fan for many, many years. I have had to stop reading her lately just to give other authors a chance.



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