THE WAY THE CROW FLIES
by Ann-Marie MacDonald
Category: Fiction / Literary
718 pages; ISBN: 0-676-97408-2
Rating: 10/10 (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Norman Goldman
Ann-Marie MacDonald is a Governor-General’s award-winning playwright and the author of “Fall on your Knees,” which won the Commonwealth Prize for Best First Book and an Oprah Book Club pick. Apparently, her new novel follows in the inevitable path of success.
You will never look at a crow the same way after reading this author’s newest work of fiction, The Way The Crow Flies.
This long-awaited novel is an intense psychological drama, an indictment of justice and politics of the sixties. Although, the subject of pedophilia is very disturbing and “creepy,” Ann-Marie MacDonald has an uncanny understanding of childhood, its humor, its pitfalls, its pain and confusion in a dangerous adult world.
The author sets the stage for upcoming events with poignant cameos at the beginning or the end of each chapter. Their innocent illustrations of a crow flying and of an innocuous mountain are the keepers of dark and mysterious secrets
Ann-Marie MacDonald the actress, through her different characters, is able to brilliantly convey the illusions of the different roles of this drama. Poetic prose flawlessly ties up the dialogues and monologues.
The author aptly inserts the lyrics of songs from the sixties (This land is my land, Un Acadien Errant, Thank Heaven for Little Girls, etc…) to lull the reader into a make believe world where everything is dandy! The use of German and Acadian French are the spice that covers up rotten apples.
We meet Madeleine with her family on a car trip to Centralia, Ontario, where they are being transferred from a Canadian Air Force base in Germany in the early 1960’s.
Jack McCarthy, her father, is a decorated CO (Chief Officer) and an IO (Intelligence Officer), caught in a spy web bringing Nazi rocket scientists to the US. Jack is a devoted Canadian who loves his family above all. Mimi, an Acadian, is a ditzy housewife. Although she loves her children, she fails to communicate with them. And Mike, her older brother, is her older brother, charming and annoying like all normal older brothers.
Jack has a marked preference for his youngest daughter, Madeleine, the heroin of this novel, who is about to start Gr.4 in Centralia’s school; an innocent, funny little girl whose pet is a battered up and feisty Bugs Bunny. Bugs Bunny will play a big role in alleviating Madeleine’s pain.
A myriad of other sub-characters live on the base. The most important being Mr. March, the pedophile teacher, the neighbors, Henry Froelichs, a Holocaust survivor, his adopted family, Ricky, Colleen, and twin boys and of course Madeleine’s 9 year old school mates.
The plot is based on the true story of Steven Truscott, accused of murdering a little girl in Ontario and the aftermath. Madeleine is forced to testify at the trial of the innocent teenage boy.
The trial not only haunts Madeleine but also her father who knowingly withheld crucial information.
Ann Marie MacDonald parallels the unfolding drama of Centralia with an overall indictment of the rocket space race created on the backs of slaves by the Nazis.
The burden of secrets, molestation, injustices are gradually revealed to the reader. An uneasy feeling is built up to the point where the suspense becomes almost unbearable.
Madeleine grows up to be a successful comic who has never told anyone about her experiences and as Ann-Marie MacDonald says it so eloquently on p. 528:
“Laughter bubbles from the well of tears and at the bottom of your well, there is blood”
What’s to become of Madeleine? And the crows? Readers will be compelled to read “The Way the Crow Flies” to the bitter end!
The above review was written by
with the collaboration of Norm Goldman, Editor of BOOKPLEASURES
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