Saturday, July 5, 2008
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