Crow Lake

Crow Lake

Book - 2002
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Mary Lawson's debut novel is a shimmering tale of love, death and redemption set in a rural northern community where time has stood still. Tragic, funny and unforgettable, this deceptively simple masterpiece about the perils of hero worship leapt to the top of the bestseller lists only days after being released in Canada and earned glowing reviews in The New York Times and The Globe and Mail , to name a few. It will be published in more than a dozen countries worldwide, including the U.S., the U.K., Germany, Italy and Bulgaria.

Luke, Matt, Kate and Bo Morrison are born in an Ontario farming community of only a few families, so isolated that "the road led only south." There is little work, marriage choices are few, and the winter cold seeps into the bones of all who dare to live there. In the Morrisons' hard-working, Presbyterian house, the Eleventh Commandment is "Thou Shalt Not Emote." But as descendants of a great-grandmother who "fixed a book rest to her spinning wheel so that she could read while she was spinning," the Morrison children have some hope of getting off the land through the blessings of education. Luke, the eldest, is accepted at teachers college -- despite having struggle mightily through school -- but before he can enroll, the Morrison parents are killed in a collision with a logging truck. He gives up his place to stay home and raise his younger sisters -- seven-year-old Kate, and Bo, still a baby.

In this family bound together by loss, the closest relationship is that between Kate and her older brother Matt, who love to wander off to the ponds together and lie on the bank, noses to the water. Matt teaches his little sister to watch "damselflies performing their delicate iridescent dances," to understand how water beetles "carry down an air bubble with them when they submerge." The life in the pond is one that seems to go on forever, in contrast to the abbreviated lives of the Morrison parents. Matt becomes Kate's hero and her guide, as his passionate interest in the natural world sparks an equal passion in Kate.

Matt, a true scholar, is expected to fulfill the family dream by becoming the first Morrison to earn a university degree. But a dramatic event changes his course, and he ends up a farmer; so it is Kate who eventually earns the doctorate and university teaching position. She is never able to reconcile her success with what she considers the tragedy of Matt's failure, and she feels a terrible guilt over the sacrifices made for her. Now a successful biologist in her twenties, she nervously returns home with her partner, a microbiologist from an academic family, to celebrate Matt's son's birthday. Amid the clash of cultures, Kate takes us in and out of her troubled childhood memories. Accustomed to dissecting organisms under a microscope, she must now analyze her own emotional life. She is still in turmoil over the events of one fateful year when the tragedy of another local family spilled over into her own. There are things she cannot understand or forgive.

In this universal drama of family love and misunderstandings, Lawson ratchets up the tension, her narrative flowing with consummate control in ever-increasing circles, overturning one's expectations to the end. Compared by Publishers Weekly to Richard Ford for her lyrical, evocative writing, Lawson combines deeply drawn characters, beautiful writing and a powerful description of the land.
Publisher: Toronto : A. A. Knopf Canada, c2002
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780676974805
Branch Call Number: F LAW
Characteristics: 294 p. ; 22 cm


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Nov 10, 2017

Crow Lake is the 2002 debut novel by Mary Lawson and it went on to win the Books in Canada First Novel Award. The story is set in Northern Ontario and is about the struggle four children have to stay together when their parents die in a car crash. The oldest, Luke, puts his life on hold in order to stay with the younger children. The next brother, Matt, feels guilty that he is going to be the one who gets to go to University. But a deranged neighbour brings about some changes that affect their plans for the future.

I can’t say enough about what a wonderful read this was. The setting is very evocative and this small rural community comes alive on the pages. Crow Lake is a great story of family love and sacrifice and it felt very real. I am going to miss reading about these characters.

Apr 19, 2017

I liked it. It was a good story. I liked and empathized with everyone except the narrator (Kate).... who I think is giving the impression it's all about her. She's a completely and totally self absorbed individual who has no empathy or others. Can't say as I'd like to have her in my family or even circle of friends.

Sep 29, 2016

What an exceptional story teller ! To weave the flashbacks in and through the book - drew me into the incredibly tragedies (on multiple levels) of the Morrisons and the Pyes. I read the book in one sitting , and then the next day re read it as I wanted to allow the depth and the power of this novel sink in. I enjoyed both readings ! !

Sep 22, 2016

I see people saying that everything is foreshadowed, but I never noticed that. I was deeply into the story and it seemed well written to me.

Aug 20, 2016

My only criticism is that the author doesn't trust the reader to sense coming climaxes. She continuously announces the on-coming train. But I love the simplicity and clarity of her writing. The chaos described in the lives of the 4 main characters rang true and extraordinary.

An enjoyable, quick read of the story of thousands of families' lives.

May 23, 2016

The pace would have been fine if the protagonist didn't continuously and frequently offer a loaded comment - Lawson is very heavy-handed with the brush of foreshadowing. A relatively flat protagonist that allows the reader to critique and learn alongside.

Jul 19, 2015

Excellent read!

Jul 07, 2015

A fairly good read but I found it very slow in parts.

Apr 04, 2015

I enjoyed this book's plot and Mary Lawson's writing style. I look forward to reading her other books.

Apr 02, 2015

Wonderful - I will get her other books.

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Sep 26, 2011

varaidzo89 thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over


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Sep 26, 2011

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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Sep 26, 2011

Page 213: "I hope she knew we were grateful to her. No---I'll rephrase that. I hope we were grateful to her. I have an uneasy feeling we weren't, at the time. But maybe it didn't matter. She wasn't doing it only for u."


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