The Way the Crow Flies

The Way the Crow Flies

Book - 2003
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The early sixties, a time of optimism infused with the excitement of the space race and overshadowed by the menace of the Cold War, is filtered through the rich imagination of eight-year-old Madeleine McCarthy who lives with her family on an air force base in Ontaio.
Publisher: Toronto : Alfred A. Knopf Canada, 2003.
ISBN: 9780676974089
0676974082
Characteristics: 720 pages

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e
Eosos
Apr 26, 2016

I really just thought this book was okay, but I had to add an extra star because the writing is so wonderful.
This is one of those stories that I just can't (or maybe won't, who can say) appreciate. The drama, the characters, the mystery, the why's and wherefores, I just lost interest. The entire middle part of the book was a dead loss to me, though I thought the beginning and the end superb. I loved how it started, with the little girl telling the story of moving, with her fears and understanding of her parents. It was almost magical in the telling. But then the story moves on to her new teacher and her fathers work and became less enchanted, it moves to murder and secrets and I'm not charmed but getting bored, right though to the modern day life of the little girl, all grown up. And then it get better, with her parents retired and the mystery getting solved, the end was good, with just the right amount of closure but leaving some to the imagination.
There is no doubt the the author is extremely talented, it is not easy to take your reader through the emotional wringer and still leave that hope at the end. But for me, this isn't the kind of book I can get invested in.

WVMLStaffPicks Jan 05, 2015

An idyllically happy air force family is posted back to Ontario after years abroad, leaving the idealized 50’s to encounter shady cold-war covert operations and a horrific murder in their small community. MacDonald writes a gripping story with elements that every Canadian baby boomer of a certain age recalls vividly -– the Steven Truscott case and the Cuban missile crisis. In this tale of innocence betrayed we are swept along in secrets that breed secrets, the excitement of the space race, the fight against Nazis and Communists, the powerful grip of child abuse and -- most of all -- the worldview of a spirited eight year old.

c
ceedeegee57
Apr 27, 2012

Although not nearly as well recieved as "Fall On Your Knees", it is a mistake to dismiss this book as an also ran.
Each time I reread it I find more to love, her characters carry with them joy and heartbreak and bestow them on the reader in often surprising ways.
At times a mystery and a piece of Canadian historical fiction, "The way the crow flies" is really about the love and pain and tragedies (and indeed triumphs) each family carries with them and how they make us who we are.
Haunting, chilling, and sadly beautiful but never afraid to laugh with our frailties, MacDonald proves here again she knows how to tell a cracker of a story.

j
jmikesmith
Dec 19, 2011

[Warning: this is a long review, but this complex book merits it.]

This is a long, thoughtful, and multi-layered novel. It was recommended to me as a good depiction of life growing up on Canadian military bases, as I did. And it is. It centres around 8-year-old Madeleine McCarthy, who's on her fourth move in 1962, and her father Jack McCarthy, a Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) officer. The early part of the story is about how the McCarthys, including Madeleine's Acadian mother Mimi and her older brother Mike, settle into their new home at RCAF Station Centralia, in central Ontario. Author MacDonald captures very well what it's like moving all the time, setting up in yet another military-supplied house. I've been there and done that and I'll attest to the accuracy. She explains the lifestyle better than I could.

MacDonald writes that when you move all the time, you're not from anywhere that you can locate on a map; you're from a series of events. You define yourself by stories -- what she calls "remember-whens" -- not by home towns. And stories are what I think this book is really about. We tell stories to ourselves to make sense of our pasts. We tell stories to each other. We tell stories at a community or cultural level to make sense of our world. And often, we only know part of anyone else's story.

In addition, we sometimes lie to each other, and even to ourselves, to hide unpleasant truths. Stories and lies drive this novel. Madeleine tells lies to protect her parents from knowing how things are in her Grade 4 class. Jack tells lies to protect the secrecy of a military-intelligence operation he's involved in. And society tells itself lies, or at least omits part of history, to justify actions that are at best unethical and at worst criminal. Throw in post-war World War II optimism and Cold War paranoia, and almost every character in this story is deceived by someone about something. Only the reader knows what's going on, and even we can't be totally sure we have the whole story.

Near the half-way mark, all these stories and lies run against the murder of a child, which is announced on the first page, but not fully recounted until much later. The murder is highly reminiscent of the Stephen Truscott case, which MacDonald acknowledges. Jack and Madeleine both have information that is pertinent. One of them must decide whether to lie, and the other must decide whether to tell the truth. Their decisions have consequences that they must both live with. Nearly 20 years later, the story picks up with Madeleine and Jack having to confront and relive the decisions they made then, and update their stories.

The novel is very well-written, with every word carefully chosen. The whole story is told in the present tense, which gives it an immediacy that makes it very compelling. It is, in short, a page-turner. It is very long, however; over 720 pages. Occasional flashbacks and flash-forwards are also in the present tense, which can be a bit confusing, but it's generally easy to adjust. The first portion, dealing with life on the RCAF station, is slow-moving but still engrossing. The pace picks up with the murder trial and its aftermath. This is a sad, disturbing tale. While there are moments of childhood joy and silliness, the events are, on the whole, demoralizing. This is not a feel-good story, but there are one or two deeply moving scenes that remind us what the real point is: it's all about love.

t
technojoy
Aug 03, 2011

Intense and disturbing and utterly absorbing. This is one of the best books I've ever read.

m
MissTeen1980
Nov 03, 2010

This is the BEST BOOK I have read by a Canadian Author, hands down.

i
Iridollae
Sep 21, 2010

Beautiful, in an aching sort of way. MacDonald has a way with words; she took me back in time and far far away from the very beginning, then led me slowly back again... She exposes sensitive, and often disturbing themes, intricately woven together in a story of loss, growing up, and learning how to let go.

k
kyokochurch
Jul 21, 2010

One of my favourite books of all time. Ann-Marie MacDonald is a genius at character and plot development. This novel is at once a coming of age story, an alarmingly realistic portrait of abuse, an interesting depiction of Canadian military family life in the sixities, all wrapped up in an intricate mystery that will take you through twists and turns and keep you guessing until the very end. The way MacDonald navigates the subtleties of emotion Madeline goes through at the hands of her abuser is so painfully imaginable that it makes it a difficult read at times, but certainly a rewarding one. A brilliant addition to Canadian fiction.

0
0922
Nov 19, 2009

couldn't put it down.

cbarr Sep 03, 2009

A fascinating fictionalization of the Steven Truscott case.

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westiestimestwo
Apr 14, 2010

Madeline McCarthy, 60's Cold War, Ontario, murder, Jack

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