Monday, August 8, 2016

Crow Lake

Crow Lake by Mary Larson is a good book that, for me, has gotten even richer in the day since I completed it.  Much of yesterday I found myself thinking about the story and its message.  After I finished, I read that the book has been translated into many languages. I'm not surprised.

The plot is not extraordinary as novels go.  Four children become orphans when an automobile accident takes their parents' lives.  There are two older boys in their late teens, and two young girls--one about 7 and the other not much more than a baby.  The family lives in rural Ontario a long day's drive from Toronto.

The book is told from the vantage point of the elder daughter. She recalls the year after their parents' death and intersperses the narrative with sections about her current job as an academic and her relationship with another professor, Daniel.  Throughout the novel Kate, the 7 year old, emphasizes how devastating the year after the accident was particularly for Matt, the younger of her two older brothers.  Matt--whom we are told, she adores--something happened to Matt as a result of the tragedy which itself, Kate suggests, was a tragedy.

What happened exactly is not revealed until the end.  We are fed pieces, but it is not until the last sections that we know fully what occurred.  And while what happened to Matt may not have been all that profound, the book's theme which is foreshadowed from the start is profound. It caught me unawares, and the message--while skillfully developed--does not become obvious until there are only fourteen pages left. I kept thinking yesterday that the book was like a pretty flower that suddenly blooms stunningly at its conclusion.

The novel is beautifully written. There might be a little too much about pond creatures for my liking although I wonder if there could have been some symbolism in there that would have made the story even better for me if I had paid more attention in high school.  The story of the Pyes might have been shortened some, though I think it does add to the book.  One definite flaw is that there is no way that Marie does not come out too scarred to be the person we meet at the end.

Still, all things considered, this is a book that readers will be glad they spent some time with.  It will hang in my head for a spell. The message is one that many--including me--would be wise to internalize.

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