Saturday, July 5, 2008

Quiet But Brilliant Novel About Family


Crow Lake by Mary Lawson (291 pgs, Delta) has been on my radar for a long time. But the final push to read it came when I signed up for John's 2nd Canadian Reading Challenge. Lately, my reading has been focused mostly on fantasy or dystopian novels which are really my favorites. But when I start reading so much of the same genre, I begin to feel like I'm getting myself in a rut. This was the perfect novel to take myself out of said rut!

This is the story of Katie Morrison, a zoology professor from Toronto. Told in alternating chapters of past and present, it reveals her life growing up in rural Crow Lake in the wild terrain of Ontario. When Katie was 8 years old, her parents were killed in an automobile accident, leaving her alone with her older brothers, Luke and Matt and her baby sister, Bo. Relatives had gotten together to figure out what to do with the kids. Because money was tight, no one was able to take all 4 kids together. Luke, the oldest, was supposed to leave for teacher's college in the fall. Matt was going to have to leave high school to help on an Uncle's farm. And the girls were to go live with another relative. But Luke would have none of that talk. There was no way he was going to let them be separated, and made the decision to stay home from college to take care of the girls, and find a job. Because Matt was the exceptionally brilliant student, he needed to finish high school so he could go to college himself.

The story mainly centers on Katie's hero worship of her brother, Matt. It is his influence that has made Katie the person she is today. Starting with their trips to the lake to watch the water creatures, Matt is reason that Katie becomes so interested zoology. Matt is still stinging from Luke's self-sacrifice of giving up college for him, but decides he will do so well in school, he will get a great job and send all the kids to college himself (with a little help from Katie). But somehow, things never go as one plans, do they?

Their neighbors, the Pyes, have a family history rich with abuse, that spills over into the Morrison's lives. Both Matt and Luke work the farm for Mr. Pye, who spends his days terrorizing his own children, Laurie and Marie. The intertwining relationships with Pyes causes a chain of events that even further changes the lives of the 4 Morrison siblings.

This book is a slow, family drama. But not slow in a bad way. Lawson tells a beautiful story about the meaning of family. The rich detail of life in Crow Lake paints a picture that is easy to see. She creates a cast of characters that you grow to love. The events of the past have made Katie the quiet, reserved person she is today. It affects her relationship with Daniel, the man in her life who is so anxious to know about her past, and yet is kept hopelessly in the dark. It is the story of jealousy and resentments that build over time. But it is also the story of love and family, loss and healing. It is truly a beautiful story, at times so heartbreaking, it makes you ache. I highly recommend this wonderful book to anyone who has ever questioned their place in life. And really, isn't that all of us?? 4.5/5

19 comments:

Nicola said...

Great Review! I've got this on my list for the Can2 challenge as well. Now you've really got me itching to read it. I love this kind of story.

Bobbi said...

Nice review! I have not heard of this book, but I may have to find it. I love books that rotate between the past and the present!

Joy said...

Oh! I'm so glad you enjoyed this one, too! Her second one is just as good (imho).

smallworld reads said...

I loved this one. I have Lawson's Other Side of the Bridge on my TBR list but haven't gotten to it yet.

Stephanie said...

Nicola - Thanks! It's been a long time since I've read something like this. Very excellent book! I can't wait to read your review!

Bobbi - Thanks! It was a great story.

Joy - I very much enjoyed this one. It looks like I'll definitely have to go out and grab her other book!

smallworld - I think it actually surprised me, how much I liked this book. Although I will read just about anything, it's not really my usual fare. Excellent, though.

jenclair said...

I really liked this one, too! Haven't read her second novel, though.

John Mutford said...

I reviewed this one early last year. I think the title of your post captures how I felt about the book.

naida said...

Wonderful review, sounds like an excellent read.
http://thebookworm07.blogspot.com/

Amy said...

Great Review! I have this on my TBR, but not scheduled for this year. I am really looking forward to it though!

Nymeth said...

I don't think I'd ever heard of this before, but you make it sound irresistible. Must you keep adding to my wishlist? :P

tanabata said...

Great review, Stephanie. I've had her 2nd book on my wishlist for a while. I should try to get it sometime soon.

Kelly said...

This sounds like a great book, I recognise the title from somewhere but had never come across it. Thanks for adding even more books to my wishlist:)

Iliana said...

Great review Stephanie. I plan to read this one for one of my challenges and after reading your review I can't wait!

Melody said...

Great review, Stephanie! I haven't heard/seen this book, but you can be sure I'll be looking out for this during my next trip to the bookstore!

cj said...

I agree - it's a great review and I'll have to add it to my list.

But, what I really want to do is thank you for recommending Patricia Briggs and the Mercy Thompson series. I got all three books on 7/3 and finished the last one last night...

cjh

April said...

Excellent review! This sounds like a really good book. I will have to check it out more!

jpderosnay said...

this sounds like such a subtle and gently told story. wow, very cool.

Bookfool said...

I'm thinking this will have to be one of my Canadian reads, too. Great review!

Debi said...

Oh Stephanie, what an incredible review! I'd never even heard of this book, but is going straight to my MUST HAVE list! Thanks!