January 16, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 59  

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The Way the Crow Flies
By: Ann-Marie MacDonald
Publisher: Harper Collins
Hardcover, 736 pages

By Laura Katsirdakis
Gazette Staff

“To be in a book. To slip into the crease where two pages meet, to live in the place where your eyes alight upon the words to ignite a world of smoke and peril, colour and serene delight.”

Ann-Marie MacDonald’s second novel, The Way the Crow Flies, is a moving follow-up to her popular and critically acclaimed first effort, Fall On Your Knees. Crow builds a very sad story. However, the reader can only speculate as to how sad the book would be if it managed to hold its audience’s attention throughout the entire story.

The main characters, Madeline and her father Jack, juxtapose the worlds of children and adults throughout much of the story. Yet when this carefully constructed structure ends, the book shifts ahead 20-odd years to focus almost entirely on the adult Madeline jolting the pace of the book.

The insights of the childhood Madeline and the dog-like ignorance of her father throughout much of the book are enormously entertaining. As Madeline’s innocent childhood descends into a place of raw struggle, MacDonald paints a picture of the complexities that lie just beneath the surface.

Another aspect of this novel that stands out is the overwhelming Canadian feel to it. It may be familiar and identifiable to us, but the resentful and reverential way characters talk about Americans, and the deliberate way Madeline’s mother uses “Jergen’s” — not hand cream — can do nothing but remind us of horrible high school English classes when well-meaning teachers demanded we muse upon the elusive Canadian identity.

Many aspects of the novel actually resemble MacDonald’s own life. Just as Madeline grows up on an air force base, so did MacDonald. Just as Madeline is traumatized by the trial and imprisonment of an innocent young man, so MacDonald was affected by the case of Stephen Truscott. When asked if the main character’s subjection to childhood sexual abuse was also reflective of a personal experience, MacDonald did not answer yes or no.

This book is well worth a read, but don’t expect it to be as engaging as her first novel.



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