The Way the Crow Flies
, Ann-Marie MacDonald's follow-up novel to her bestselling debut (and Oprah Book Club pick), Fall on Your Knees
, opens in 1962 when the McCarthy family moves from Germany to their new home on a Canadian air force base near London, Ontario. Madeleine, eight and already a blossoming comic, is particularly close with her father, Jack, an air force officer. Her loving Acadian mother, Mimi, and older brother Mike round out this family, whose simple goodness reflects the glow of an era that seemed like paradise. But all that is about to change. The Cuban Missile Crisis is looming, and Jack, loyal and gullible, suddenly has an important task to carry out that involves a scientist--a former Nazi--in Canada.
While Jack scrambles to keep his activities hidden from his wife, Madeleine too is learning to keep secrets (about a teacher at school). The Way the Crow Flies is all about the fertility of lies, how one breeds another and another. Although the writing flows with a strong current, the profusion of pop references, especially ad slogans, grows tiresome. The author can, however, capture a lovely image in few words: "The afternoon intensifies. August is the true light of summer" and "yes, the earth is a woman, and her favorite food is corn." At times the story is marvelously compelling, as the mystery of a horrific murder in the fields near the base is unravelled. When events lead to a trial and its outcome, the story peaks, in a conclusion with no easy answers. The last third of the book takes place, for the most part, 20 years later. Here the novel meanders somewhat, losing its ability to captivate with the same intensity. The reader longs to return to the earlier world, which MacDonald has captured in vital detail. --Mark Frutkin, Amazon.ca
From Publishers Weekly
A little girl's body, lying in a field, is the first image in this absorbing, psychologically rich second novel by the Canadian author of the bestselling Fall on Your Knees. Then the focus shifts to the appealing McCarthy family. It's 1962, and Jack, a career officer in the RCAF, has just been assigned to the Centralia air force base in Ontario. Jack's wife, Mimi, is a domestic goddess; their children, Mike, 12, and Madeleine, 8, are sweet, loving kids. This is an idyllically happy family, but its fate will be threatened by a secret mission Jack undertakes to watch over a defector from Soviet Russia, who will eventually be smuggled into the U. S. to work on the space program. Jack is an intensely moral, decent guy, so it takes him a while to realize that the man is a former Nazi who commanded slave labor in Peenemande, where the German rockets were built in an underground cave. Meanwhile, Madeleine is one of several fourth graders who are being molested by their teacher, and one of them winds up dead in that field. McDonald is an expert storyteller who can sustain interest even when the pace is slow, as it is initially, providing an intricate recreation of life on a military base in the 1960s. As the narrative darkens, however, it becomes a chronicle of innocence betrayed. The exquisite irony is that both Madeleine and her father, unbeknownst to each other, are keeping secrets involving the day of the murder. The subtheme is the cynical decision by the guardians of the U.S. space program to shelter Nazi war criminals in order to win the race with the Russians. The finale comes as a thunderclap, rearranging the reader's vision of everything that has gone before. It's a powerful story, delicately layered with complex secrets, told with a masterful command of narrative and a strong moral message.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.