In small town Solace, Ontario, in the 1970’s, eight-year-old Clara keeps a daily vigil at the window as she awaits her missing sister Rose’s return. Her neighbor, Mrs. Orchard (Elizabeth) is in the hospital and Clara’s job is to take care of her cat, Moses. Her suspicions are on high alert when she sees a man move into Elizabeth’s home.
Told through three points of view, I listened to this on audio and was moved by the excellent performances by the three narrators. As Elizabeth lays in her hospital bed, she sifts through her memories, “talking” to her dead husband Charles about their life together and the little neighbor boy, Liam, who had a difficult home life, and was once such an important part of her life. She hints at a devastating event from the past, one she feels she must atone for before she dies.
Clara’s spunk and curiosity was delightful, and even though her worries are more than she should bear at such a young age, she provides much needed lightness and humor to the story. The relationship she strikes up with Liam as she continues to care for Moses, was endearing. In the background, always, is the mystery of Rose’s disappearance.
Liam is now 36, newly divorced, and had just quit his accountant job in the big city. He’s unhappy, unmoored, and at a crossroads in his life when he arrives in Solace to live in the house Elizabeth left him. As he was so very young when he lived across the street from Elizabeth, he has little memory of her and is unsure why she left him her house. I loved watching his transformation as he embeds himself in the life of the town.
I did want a bit more, which I suppose is better than wanting less. I wanted to hear from Liam’s mother, even if it had just been one chapter, and I wanted to know more about Rose. But those are minor complaints. The author beautifully captures small town life and the characters who inhabit the town. This is a quiet, lovely, and poignant look at lives that eventually intertwine in unexpected ways. Beautifully told, this is a deceptively simple story of flawed people (aren’t we all?) who live with regrets, and have known grief, but also joy. Solace is not just a town in Ontario, it’s what we can offer one another if we open our hearts. Highly recommended, this is a story that will touch your heart.
Offering solace…..how many places or people offer you solace. Maybe it’s a walk in the woods, a day at the beach, or just sitting in your yard listening to the sounds of life. Perhaps it is a person who makes you feel whole, a person who makes you feel relaxed and make the trials of today leave you for just a bit of time.
There is not much solace in a family living in the town of Solace. Their oldest daughter, Rose has gone missing and everyone is fearful and her younger sister, Clara, keeps a watchful eye for her return. Then in moves Liam Kane into the house next door. Liam is a quiet man, unemployed, sort of shiftless, and Clara’s senses are on high alert. This house belongs to Clara’s great elderly friend, Mrs. Orchard, and Clara has agreed to take care of her cat, Moses. Mrs. Orchard is in the hospital so Clara is very attuned to what is going on next door.
As the story progresses, we learn more about Liam and Mrs. Orchard and a former loving relationship they once had.(although Liam doesn’t remember) It is a tender story as Mrs. Orchard destined to remain childless forms a parental type relationship with Liam. She is so drawn to him, a little boy who seems to not be able to find his way in a house full of sisters and a mother at the end of her rope. When Mrs. Orchard makes a snap decision about Liam; their lives will change and the solace they found in one another will end.
Clara is the joining thread that keeps the modern-day story going as she tries to form a friendship with Liam and pray for the return of her sister. Clara does find solace in Liam’s company and he is hers, and yet he is a drifter and his footing is always shaky.
How Liam comes to stay in Mrs. Orchard’s house forms a tender link in the tale. The one drawback I found in the telling was that there was so much untold. It’s always hard to determine a point of view from characters (Liam’s mother for example who doesn’t contribute her feelings). All in all, though, the writing in lovely portraying that love comes in various forms and can wrap you in a veil of happiness, of contentment and yes, solace as well. Life can and does go on in a circular manner often leading one to a starting place to a road walked into adulthood.
Jan and I enjoyed this story which we listened to. The audio book was done so well it made the listening journey a pleasure and delight. Definitely recommend this book for a trip down a lane many of us have traveled.