- Prizes and Awards: Giller Prize Shortlist 2003
The Way the Crow Flies Paperback – Aug 17 2004
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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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Top Customer Reviews
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...Read more ›
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!
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.
Most recent customer reviews
Arrived very quickly. Read the book in HS and wanted to re-read it a decade later.
Truly great book; Definitely recommend
excellent background material on covert paper-clip operation... bringing German scientists to US secretly after WWIIPublished 7 months ago by Cedar
My favourite Ann Marie MacDonald novel. Based on th story of Steen Truscott, set in rural Ontario. Descriptie an beautifullh written.Published 11 months ago by Carrie Bertoncello
This is the kind of book that you don't want to ever end. It touches on the Cuban Missle Crisis and life growing up on military bases. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Melissa B
Nine year old Madeleine is used to moving. She moves all the time. Her father, a member of the Canadian Air Force, receives a new post every four years. Read morePublished on May 1 2009 by Jamieson Villeneuve
Macdonald is a fine writer who Canada should be proud of. Her writing is exquisite and her narrative tightly woven. The story is especially engrossing. Read morePublished on Sept. 24 2008 by Bethann McLaren
This book kept be spellbound from beginning to end. I loved the author's descriptions of the places in Ontario -- it was so refreshing to read a book that takes place in Canada,... Read morePublished on May 16 2008 by A Reader
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