A Town Called Solace was longlisted for the Booker Prize in 2021. Mary Lawson explores the relationships of three people brought together by fate and the mistakes of the past in this gripping, darkly domestic tale.

Ontario, 1972. Clara’s sister is missing. Rose had a row with their mother, stormed out of the house and simply disappeared. Eight-year-old Clara is grief-stricken and bewildered. Within hours, Liam Kane, newly divorced, newly unemployed, newly arrived in town, gets a visit from the police. What crime has he committed? Elizabeth Orchard is thinking about a crime, too, one that happened 30 years ago. It had tragic consequences, in particular for one small child. She needs to make amends.

The 2021 Booker Prize
Published by
Chatto & Windus
Publication date

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Mary Lawson

Mary Lawson

About the Author

Mary Lawson has been longlisted for the Booker Prize twice, first in 2006 and again in 2021. She is a Canadian author. Her first novel, Crow Lake (2002), a tense family drama, won the 2003 McKitterick Prize.
More about Mary Lawson

Mary Lawson on A Town Called Solace

‘It feels amazing [to be longlisted for the Booker Prize]. We’d all like our work to be taken seriously, and you don’t get more serious than the Booker!

A Town Called Solace began in my mind with a little girl standing at the window, watching a man carrying four big boxes, one after another, into the living room of the house next door. I didn’t know what was in the boxes or who the man was or why he was there, all I knew was that the little girl was instantly suspicious of him. Why? What were her circumstances? What were his? The story grew out of that scene.’

Read the full interview here

What the judges said

‘This deftly-structured novel draws together the stories of three people at three different stages in life, each of whom is grappling with loss. We were captivated by A Town Called Solace’s beautifully paced, compassionate, sometimes wry examination of small-town lives.’

What the critics said

Emily Donaldson, Globe and Mail

‘A Town Called Solace is, like its predecessors, a nuanced, probing novel – one that asks what it is to be family, to be valued; and whether there’s a difference between the two.

‘The setting of her novels (which include bestsellers Crow Lake and The Other Side of the Bridge) – the rural Ontario of her youth – and her interest in the machinations of the human psyche have stayed constant. Ditto for her consciously unshowy prose and emotional acuity.’

Noonie Minogue, Literary Review (UK)

‘This is Mary Lawson’s fourth novel and I’d recommend a binge immersion. She has carved out a world in northern Ontario that’s vividly, absorbingly real; she captures tones and voices with exactitude in writing that’s idiomatic but never flashy and carries you along from midnight to dawn, oblivious of the time.’

Saumya Singh, The Punch Magazine

‘The book has a universal appeal: while Lawson affirms that life is difficult and emotional crises are not a rarity, she also reassures us with the hope of healing, of feeling less lonely, of falling in love again and of almost magically finding people who fill the void in our lives. She makes the mundane interesting by making characters indulge in such details as how syrup is extracted from maple trees or why shingles won’t stick if it’s laid when it’s cold. 

‘Heart-warming, suspenseful and soulfully crafted, A Town Called Solace establishes the paramount necessity of being loved and the desire to love, of the significance of acknowledging trauma and the ability to empathize.’

Ferdinand Mount, Observer (UK) 

‘You can’t get much farther north than the Ontario of Mary Lawson’s icy, compelling stories of calamity and redemption. A Town Called Solace keeps you breathless with anxiety, then relief and finally even joy.’ 

Mary O’Sullivan, Irish Independent

‘Lawson’s writing is such that it appears effortless but, as all the strands come together to create a rich and satisfying tapestry, her genius for storytelling becomes apparent.’ 

Siobhan Murphy, The Times (UK)

‘Lawson’s books are a pleasure to read – they conjure a space where quiet reflection and owning your past mistakes bring gentle rewards; they feel kind and wise and brimful of empathy.’

A Town Called Solace

Listen to an extract from A Town Called Solace

Ian Lake, Maggie Huculak and  Tajja Isen bring A Town Called Solace to life in the audiobook.

Penguin Books UK · A Town Called Solace - Extract
Cover for A Town Called Solace on a green-coloured background.

Other nominated books by Mary Lawson

The Other Side of the Bridge