Crow LakeBook - 2002
Crow Lake is that rare find, a first novel so quietly assured, so emotionally pitch perfect, you know from the opening page that this is the real thing—a literary experience in which to lose yourself, by an author of immense talent.
Here is a gorgeous, slow-burning story set in the rural “badlands” of northern Ontario, where heartbreak and hardship are mirrored in the landscape. For the farming Pye family, life is a Greek tragedy where the sins of the fathers are visited on the sons, and terrible events occur—offstage.
Centerstage are the Morrisons, whose tragedy looks more immediate if less brutal, but is, in reality, insidious and divisive. Orphaned young, Kate Morrison was her older brother Matt’s protegee, her fascination for pond life fed by his passionate interest in the natural world. Now a zoologist, she can identify organisms under a microscope but seems blind to the state of her own emotional life. And she thinks she’s outgrown her siblings—Luke, Matt, and Bo—who were once her entire world.
In this universal drama of family love and misunderstandings, of resentments harbored and driven underground, Lawson ratchets up the tension with heartbreaking humor and consummate control, continually overturning one’s expectations right to the very end. Tragic, funny, unforgettable, Crow Lake is a quiet tour de force that will catapult Mary Lawson to the forefront of fiction writers today.
Baker & Taylor
In the rural farm country of northern Ontario, the lives of two families--the farming Pye family, and zoologist Kate Morrison and her three brothers--are brought together and torn apart by misunderstanding, resentment, family love, and tragedy.
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The death of their parents, when Kate is 7 years old, Bo a toddler, and her brothers in their late teens, threatens the family with dispersal and seems to spell the end of their parents' dream that they should all have a college education. Luke, the oldest but not the most academic, gives up a place at a teachers college in order to look after the younger two and allow Matt, academically brilliant and idolised by Kate, to complete his schooling and compete for university scholarships. This sacrifice leads to much tension between the brothers. Both work intermittently for a neighbouring family, the Pyes, who for several generations have suffered from fierce conflicts between fathers and sons. In the final crisis, Matt, after winning his scholarships, discovers that he has made the meek and distressed daughter of the Pye household, Marie, pregnant; she also reveals that her father, Calvin Pye, has killed her brother on accident, who was thought to have run away from home as several other Pye sons had done. Calvin Pye kills himself, and Matt has to give up his plans for education to marry Marie. Kate sees the loss of Matt's potential academic career as a terrible sacrifice, and is unable to come to terms with Marie or Matt thereafter. The dénouement of the adult Kate's story comes when she returns to Crow Lake for Matt and Marie's son's eighteenth birthday, introducing Daniel to her family for the first time. In the course of this visit, she is made to realise - first by Marie and then by Daniel - that Matt's loss though real was not the total tragedy she had always considered it, and that it is her sense of it as tragic that has destroyed her relationship with him. The book ends with her struggling to come to terms with this view of their past and present relationships; the struggle is left unresolved but the final tone is optimistic.
The book is essentially a double Bildungsroman, in that the development of both Matt and Kate is charted; but whereas we see the key events in Matt's young adulthood more or less in sequence, the key events in Kate's are sketched in from both ends, towards a crisis that in terms of events is Matt's but psychologically is more significant for Kate. The mixture of perspectives involved in Kate's story allows the author to relate violent events and highly charged emotions in a smooth and elegant style, a quality for which the book has been widely praised by reviewers.
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