Set in the frozen north of Canada in 1972, this is a novel about childhood trauma, painful histories that need reckoning with and the moments in life when we can change for the better.
'I've been trying to tell everybody I know about Mary Lawson... [Each of her novels is] just a marvel' ANNE TYLER
It’s North Ontario in 1972, and seven-year-old Clara’s teenage sister Rose has just run away from home. At the same time, a strange man – Liam – drives up to the house next door, which he has just inherited from Mrs Orchard, a kindly old woman who was friendly to Clara and relied on the girl to feed her cat Moses.
Before the Snow follows Clara and her fractured family - a sister who is missing and parents who won’t ever tell her the truth; Liam’s escape from a mid-life crisis in this crumbling house which he was given unexpectedly by a woman he hasn’t seen since he was five; and Mrs Orchards’ final days in hospital, as her memories spiral back to the real mystery at the heart of this novel – what happened between her and Liam so many years ago.
As these characters, who lives are joined by fate in ways they don't yet understand, reckon with personal crises and tragic pasts, we see that change and, for some, a new life is possible. By turns gripping and heart-warming, Before the Snow carefully uncovers the layers of grief, remorse and love that connect families, both the ones we're born into and the ones we choose, and steadily builds towards an assured, affecting and uplifting ending. It’s a beautiful portrait of a small town, a little girl and an exploration of childhood.
Mary Lawson is a Canadian author. Her first novel, Crow Lake (2002), is a tense and heart-breaking drama of family love and buried resentment set in rural Ontario, carefully crafted and sparkling with humour, which won the 2003 McKitterick Prize. Her second novel, The Other Side of the Bridge (2006), is the compelling and vivid story of two generations of a family who are tragically torn apart by the Second World War, which was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize that year and selected for the Richard and Judy book club. Her most recent novel, Road Ends (2013), tells the enthralling tale of the Cartwright family unravelling in the aftermath of a tragedy, set against the chilling backdrop of a frozen landscape in the first half of the 20th century.
||Chatto & Windus
||16 February 2021