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Crow Lake: A Novel Mass Market Paperback – International Edition, July 25, 2006
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Canadian writer Mary Lawson's debut novel is a beautifully crafted and shimmering tale of love, death, and redemption. The story, narrated by 26-year-old Kate Morrison, is set in the eponymous Crow Lake, an isolated rural community where time has stood still. The reader dives in and out of a year's worth of Kate's childhood memories--when she was 7 and her parents were killed in an automobile accident that left Kate, her younger sister Bo, and two older brothers, Matt and Luke, orphaned. When Kate, the successful zoologist and professor who is accustomed to dissecting everything through a microscope, receives an invitation to Matt's son's 18th birthday party, she must suddenly analyze her own relationship and come to terms with her past before she forsakes a future with the man she loves. Kate is still in turmoil over the events of that fateful summer and winter 20 years ago when the tragedy of another local family, the Pyes, spilled over into their lives with earth-shattering consequences. But does the tragedy really lie in the past or the present? Lawson's narrative flows effortlessly in ever-increasing circles, swirling impressions in the reader's mind until form takes shape and the reader is left to reflect on the whole. Crow Lake is a wonderful achievement that will ripple in and out of the reader's consciousness long after the last page is turned. --Nicola Perry, Amazon.co.uk --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Four children living in northern Ontario struggle to stay together after their parents die in an auto accident in Lawson's fascinating debut, a compelling and lovely study of sibling rivalry and family dynamics in which the land literally becomes a character. Kate Morrison narrates the tale in flashback mode, starting with the fatal car accident that leaves seven-year-old Kate; her toddler sister, Bo; 19-year-old Luke; and 17-year-old Matt to fend for themselves. At first they are divided up among relatives, but the plan changes when Luke gives up his teaching college scholarship to get a job and try to keep them together. The fractured family struggles mightily against the grinding rural poverty of Crow Lake, and the brothers conduct a fierce battle of wills to control their fate, until they both finally land jobs and the family gets some assistance from a neighbor. Unfortunately, that assistance can't overcome the deranged rage of a neighboring farmer, Cyrus Pye, and when Matt becomes involved with Pye's daughter, Maria, a tragic incident robs the brilliant young man of a chance to pursue a career as a naturalist. Kate goes on to become a zoologist at a Toronto college and marry a fellow academic, but her frustration with her brother's fate renders her unable to return to Crow Lake to visit him until the pivotal climax. Lawson delivers a potent combination of powerful character writing and gorgeous description of the land. Her sense of pace and timing is impeccable throughout, and she uses dangerous winter weather brilliantly to increase the tension as the family battles to survive. This is a vibrant, resonant novel by a talented writer whose lyrical, evocative writing invites comparisons to Rick Bass and Richard Ford. (Mar.)Forecast: The combination of orphan protagonists and effortless prose makes this an irresistible first effort. Foreign rights have already been sold in nine countries, and similar enthusiasm should be expected in the U.S.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Top customer reviews
Mrs. Lawson's books are set in northern Ontario in farming country. The story is told by Kate Morrison who is a assistant professor teaching invertibrate ecology at the University of Toronto. Ms Morrison is not into memories, she tells her story in the present, teaching which she doesn't care for, she is not a people person, her relationship with Professor Daniel also zoology, but then she goes back into her childhood growing up in northern Ontario. Kate was orphaned at a very early age, this is possibly why she has so many problems relating to people.
The book begins when proud Morrison parents learn that their son, Luke 19, has won a scholarship to teachers college. Luke will be the first in this family to go to college. The two drive to the small town 20 miles away to buy a suitcase. An automobile accident, parents killed, four young kids left orphans, Luke 19, Matt 17, Kate 7, a quiet, serious child, Bo, a year and a half, a little firecracker, always busy, hard to keep up with.
Held up as a good example is great grandmother Morrison who loved to read, not fiction but books about the real world. It was big brother Matt who turned Kate on the field of invertibrates. There were the pits he took her to to watch tiny creatures. Kate adored Matt, he was her hero. The pits are very important in this book.
The book goes back and forth, past to present. Aunt Annie comes to stay with the family, to get matters settled. Her choice is to have Luke go on to college. Matt is to move away to another province to work on a farm, the two little girls to go to relatives. Luke becomes a man. He will deny his scholarship. Matt will stay in school, he is too intelligent to drop out. The little girls will stay home. This family will stay together. Aunt Annie doesn't approve, but Luke is of age. But it will be hard as it is,very.
Kate tells of how the ladies of the farming community drop off casseroles, desserts, dinners. Neighbors are kind, doctor won't take pay for services, one lady takes two days to stay with the girls and do housework. Good neighbors. Luke and Matt do jobs so the girls won't be left with strangers.
While working for elderly Miss Vernon, who is descended from old settlers of the areas, Miss Vernon tells Kate about these families. The strangest family is the Pyles who eat their young. One son manages to chase brothers and sisters away. The father is abusive, one son stays, and takes abuse to be able to inherit the land then abuses his own family. Other sons and daughters feel its not worth it and move on, run away. So many farm families love the land. Others feel it all is not worth the headache.
Daniel and his parents are academics, wealthy, fine home. All three are professors and well travelled. Kate's relatives never wander far from home. Kate's nephew is 18 and has invited his aunt to his party. Please come and bring someone. Kate is not too sure whether Daniel will fit in. Will he look down on rural people? She worries but invites Daniel.
So Kate has a nephew. Matt has a son. He worked at Pye's farm, so did Pye's daughter, Marie. Brother Laurie had run away so there was much work for both. So Matt and Marie got together. As a result, Simon. Kate dislikes Marie so much. She cheated Matt out of what he should have been. He had to get married. Marie is quiet, not pretty. She doesn't deserve Matt. Matt has earned scholarships h e couldn't take. So back home to the country to reconnect with family and friends, to introduce Daniel to all. All is well. Matt likes farming. Good book.read.
This is an outstanding book.
I simply loved everything about it and in the near future I will definitely read it again.
The characters in the community are authentic, pragmatic, and represent humanity at its basic level. They rise to the occasion consistently, practicing their generosity as a way of life. There is depth to personalities that transcends the norm.
I'm still reeling from this incredibly well-written novel. The undercurrents that are evident throughout the book become the pinnacles that bring the story to a powerful ending. I highly recommend this earthy, poignant, and dynamic book.