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The Way the Crow Flies Paperback – Aug 17 2004


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  • Prizes and Awards: Giller Prize Shortlist 2003


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 832 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Canada (Aug. 17 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0676974090
  • ISBN-13: 978-0676974096
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 3.7 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 635 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #4,070 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Amazon

The Way the Crow Flies, Ann-Marie MacDonald's first novel since her bestselling debut, Fall on Your Knees, opens in 1962 when the McCarthy family moves from Germany to their new home on a Canadian air force base near London, Ontario. Madeleine, eight and already a blossoming comic, is particularly close with her father, Jack, an air force officer. Her loving Acadian mother, Mimi, and older brother Mike round out this family, whose simple goodness reflects the glow of an era that seemed like paradise. But all that is about to change. The Cuban Missile Crisis is looming, and Jack, loyal and gullible, suddenly has an important task to carry out that involves a scientist--a former Nazi--in Canada.

While Jack scrambles to keep his activities hidden from his wife, Madeleine too is learning to keep secrets (about a teacher at school). The Way the Crow Flies is all about the fertility of lies, how one breeds another and another. Although the writing flows with a strong current, the profusion of pop references, especially ad slogans, grows tiresome. The author can, however, capture a lovely image in few words: "The afternoon intensifies. August is the true light of summer" and "yes, the earth is a woman, and her favourite food is corn." At times the story is marvelously compelling, as the mystery of a horrific murder in the fields near the base is unravelled. When events lead to a trial and its outcome, the story peaks, in a conclusion with no easy answers. The last third of the book takes place, for the most part, 20 years later. Here the novel meanders somewhat, losing its ability to captivate with the same intensity. The reader longs to return to the earlier world, which MacDonald has captured in vital detail. --Mark Frutkin --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

A little girl's body, lying in a field, is the first image in this absorbing, psychologically rich second novel by the Canadian author of the bestselling Fall on Your Knees. Then the focus shifts to the appealing McCarthy family. It's 1962, and Jack, a career officer in the RCAF, has just been assigned to the Centralia air force base in Ontario. Jack's wife, Mimi, is a domestic goddess; their children, Mike, 12, and Madeleine, 8, are sweet, loving kids. This is an idyllically happy family, but its fate will be threatened by a secret mission Jack undertakes to watch over a defector from Soviet Russia, who will eventually be smuggled into the U. S. to work on the space program. Jack is an intensely moral, decent guy, so it takes him a while to realize that the man is a former Nazi who commanded slave labor in Peenemande, where the German rockets were built in an underground cave. Meanwhile, Madeleine is one of several fourth graders who are being molested by their teacher, and one of them winds up dead in that field. McDonald is an expert storyteller who can sustain interest even when the pace is slow, as it is initially, providing an intricate recreation of life on a military base in the 1960s. As the narrative darkens, however, it becomes a chronicle of innocence betrayed. The exquisite irony is that both Madeleine and her father, unbeknownst to each other, are keeping secrets involving the day of the murder. The subtheme is the cynical decision by the guardians of the U.S. space program to shelter Nazi war criminals in order to win the race with the Russians. The finale comes as a thunderclap, rearranging the reader's vision of everything that has gone before. It's a powerful story, delicately layered with complex secrets, told with a masterful command of narrative and a strong moral message.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Schmadrian TOP 1000 REVIEWER on March 22 2009
Format: Hardcover
I'd put off reading this novel since it came out. Mostly because of the effect that 'Fall on Your Knees' had on me. (Which included handing out more than fifty copies to friends and family since its publication.) Fear must have been part of it, fear about how much better this one might be, might not be... 'Fall' was proof to me of how great writing could be. The author writing something better might have had me intimidated (yes, I'm a writer), and yet her writing something 'not better, not even as good as' might have disappointed me so much to have had a deleterious effect. Fortunately, neither possibility resulted.

Ms MacDonald is an extremely talented writer. There is an assuredness in her writing, in how she executes what she does, that goes deep. For me, a novel (or a screenplay for that matter) has its author taking the reader by the hand, saying "I have a story for you. Walk with me while I tell it to you..." When this is done with confidence (and not just 'writerly ability, getting the vocabulary, the grammar, the construction right) the whole reading experience is taken up a level, approaching being transported. And yet she does not 'over-write'. She is not prone to 'purple prose'. She is as likely to throw out a juicy riff as she is to dig deep. Clearly a great observer of people, she understands the complexities of character and relays them with honesty and humour. Moreover, though every piece of writing is, at its core, an expression of the writer, 'Crow' is clean, unencumbered by 'at least to these eyes' literary earmarks.

This novel has a lot going on. And yes, I'm not sure that it needed to be as expansive as it is. ("Couldn't you just take out a few notes?") When I began the final 150 or so pages, I confess I did mutter 'This better be good...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Dan Richardson on Aug. 30 2006
Format: Hardcover
A well written and entertaining book that was inspired by the true Canadian life of Stephen Truscott.

MacDonald has done an amazing job of capturing and detailing life in the early 60's during the Cuban Missile Crisis along with detailing the life of a Canadian Military family in midwestern Ontario.

A book of espionage, intrigue, murder and growing up in middle class Canada.

A harrowing account of the effects and side effects of sexual abuse right under your nose and how those who hold to "doing it right" can get it so wrong.

The author provides a beautiful but ugly ride with the McCarthey family and the reader continually gets let down and disappointed by Jack and Mimi McCarthey.

The star of this 700+ pageturner is the lovely amusing and adorable Madeline who finally comes to grips with "doing it right" and how she goes about to not only do it but get it right.

An interesting ending that makes this that much more of a gripping novel.

Thank you Ms. MacDonald for your ability to remember those little nuances that puts the reader back into the early 60's from Bugs Bunny to Cameo Menthols to the Beverly Hillbillies. Well done and very well crafted.

Highly recommended and hats off to the author for this wonderful summer read.

Also highly recommended is the true horror story called "Until You Are Dead - Steven Truscott's Long Ride Into History" by Julian Sher published by Knoph Canada. The only scarier thing about this book is that it's TRUE!
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on Dec 12 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is simply one of the best books I have read in a very long time. The way in which MacDonald evokes the innocence of early 60's domestic life in Canada and then shatters that image is stunning. On one level, this is a mystery and another, it is an insightful examination of the destructive power of lies. A truly great read.
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Format: Paperback
Since there are numerous reviews revealing the plot and characters, I will not take up time and space and go down that same road again. Contrary to many reviewers' opinions, I did not find the book depressing. On the positive side, it was a real page-turner from start to finish and one of the main characters, Madaline, kept me chuckling along the way especially in her youth. The book begins in the 60's, and for me, brought back many memories of old songs, movies and celebrieties mentioned that were long forgotten. (If you are too young to reminisce about Dion and "The Wanderer", well...you simply don't know what you missed!) There was also a touch of everything from family life, and the exuberance of youth, to rape and murder -"something for everyone," as one might say. The book is a lengthy one and has a surprise twist at the end regarding who actually committed the murder.

On the negative side, the participation of Madaline's father's (Jack's) involvement in the air force, past activities and rehashing of outdated military events become boring and tedious at best. Overall, I would recommend the book, although there may be parts of Jack's long-winded military career, which really added nothing to the book, that the reader might like to skim through or pass by entirely. It often seemed like the author was trying to write two books but decided to combine them in one, i.e., one about Madeline, her friends, family life, and murder, and one about Jack's life in the military. Somehow the two simply did not gel well together.
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