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Crow Lake by Mary Lawson

When the end came, it seemed to do so completely out of the blue, and it wasn't until long afterward that I was able to see that there was a chain of events leading up to it. Some of those events had nothing to do with us, the Morrisons, but were solely the concern of the Pyes, who lived on a farm about a mile away and were our nearest neighbors." from page seven

I must confess that it took me longer than it really needed to in order to finish the novel Crow Lake by Mary Lawson. The entire story is building up to the big catastrophe that forever destroys all the hopes and dreams the Morrison clan ever dared to hope and dream for its future. In the eyes of the narrator, it is even worse than the tragedy of the car crash that claimed both parents' lives one evening on the heels of some good news the family has received and celebrated. Now you can see why I dreaded getting to the end of a book that drips in foreboding like nobody's business. What can be a worse tragedy for a family than when both parents die at the same time leaving two teens, a seven year old and a year old baby behind?

Kate Morrison is a zoologist living in southern Ontario. Thanks to childhood trauma stemming from her parents' deaths and the ensuing "catastrophe" that destroyed her family, she is emotionally estranged from her siblings and unable to truly connect and open up to her boyfriend. Granted this also stems from the way she was raised: her parents were of Presbyterian stock that weren't given to expressing emotion and discouraged overly emotional displays. This is vastly different from the way Kate's boyfriend was raised as an only child in a household in which emotion erupted and spilled all over the place.

Kate's about seven when her parents are killed in a car crash. Rather than split up the family, the oldest boy, Luke, forgoes a college education in order to raise his younger sisters, and hopefully give younger brother, Matt, who is considered the real brains in the family, a chance at a college education in a year when he graduates from high school.

This is the beautiful, insightful tale of how the Morrison children's lives were derailed by the deaths of their parents and the events that followed in the first year after the tragedy. Throughout the narrative Kate makes an effort to pinpoint the exact spot, the exact catalyst, that set everything else in motion leading to another catastrophe. It is clear that events cascaded, falling like dominoes until the last domino fell.

In the end Kate realizes that the true tragedy that came to wreck her family, specifically her relationship with her beloved brother and mentor, Matt, who taught her all there is to know about nature and pond life, is not that which she had first perceived it to be. Instead it was her misperception of it all that robbed her of her relationship with her brother and prevented him from re-establishing a connection with her years later after she has ended her estrangement from her siblings.

Ultimately this is a riveting, page turning narrative of a woman's recount and analysis of the events, incidents, and perceptions that lead to estrangement from her family and finally to the healing and re-interpretation of events that was required for her to come back to them and the brother who mentored her when she was a girl. Kate's a deeply logical, rational, analytical person, socially awkward and unable to understand and feel emotions, specifically empathy. But logic and rationality can never understand the complicated emotions and events that lead the dysfunction of a neighboring family to infect her own.

I highly recommend you read this book.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie


chase gunner said…
I personally think that it was not because of her parents dying that cause Kate to estrange from her siblings, but that of her judgment of people based on education. I think it was that of Matt not going to college that made her not want to talk to her siblings because she thought if you did not have education then you were not happy. This idea was set in her brain with the ideas that her great grandmother had put in place about education

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