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The Way the Crow Flies


The Way the Crow Flies

Canadian Ann-Marie MacDonald's second novel, following the internationally bestselling (and Oprah's Book Club favorite) FALL ON YOUR KNEES, opens with a powerful scene --- a murder, one whose only witnesses are the crows perched in the branches of the trees above. While both victim and perpetrator are unknown to the reader and the entire chapter takes up less than half a page, it packs an emotional punch and sets the tone for the chapters to come. In the next scene, we are introduced to the happy, near picture-perfect McCarthy family traveling cross-country to a new home and idyllic future. This sudden switch in mood effectively paves the way for the story ahead --- nothing is certain, and surprises are lurking around every corner.

The year is 1962, the Cold War is heating up, the "space race" is on, and for the time being optimism still outweighs cynicism. Jack McCarthy, a career officer in the RCAF, has just been posted to the Centralia Air Force Station in Ontario, near the Canadian-American border. His family --- wife Mimi, 12-year-old Mike, and 8-year-old Madeleine --- are overjoyed to be back in their native Canada after an overseas stint at a Germany base.

The McCarthys settle in to their new home in the "PMQ" (permanent married quarters), the kids enroll in school, Mimi blissfully immerses herself in domestic tasks, and Jack takes on his first assignment at Centralia --- a secret mission to watch over a Soviet defector who eventually will be smuggled across the border to work on the U.S. space program. When Jack learns his charge is actually a former Nazi who commanded slave labor at Peenemunde (the underground cave and nucleus of the Nazi rocket program) his duty quickly becomes more morally burdensome than he can bear.

Meanwhile, 8-year-old Madeleine is keeping secrets of her own. She and several of her 4th grade classmates are being molested by their teacher during one-on-one picnics at a place they call Rock Bass. When one of the girls ends up dead in the field, this seemingly peaceful community is thrown into turmoil. Without knowing it, both father and daughter hold pieces of the puzzle that can solve the crime but neither one is talking. It will take Madeleine twenty years to begin to understand the global implications of her schoolmate's murder and come to terms with her role in the events of that spring day.

Rich and complex, full of moral subtleties and ironies, THE WAY THE CROW FLIES more than delivers on the promise shown in FALL ON YOUR KNEES. Playwright MacDonald proves she is a master storyteller with a finger on the pulse of human emotion and conflict. This is the perfect novel with which to kick off the fall reading season.

Reviewed by Melissa Morgan on January 24, 2011

The Way the Crow Flies
by Ann-Marie MacDonald

  • Publication Date: August 31, 2004
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 848 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial
  • ISBN-10: 0060586370
  • ISBN-13: 9780060586379