Saturday, July 07, 2007

The Way the Crow Flies

The Way the Crow Flies, Anne-Marie MacDonald.

The Way the Crow Flies is a story about childhood, and about secrets and lies and how they affect lives in far-reaching ways that we'd never expect or imagine. Revolving around eight-year-old Madeleine and her father, an officer in the Royal Canadian Air Force, both with secrets to keep, the story is haunting and beautifully written.

I started reading The Way the Crow Flies the day after I bought it at Powell's. MacDonald has a gift for writing childhood, at least the way we remember seeing the world when we were children. I set it aside so that I could finish reading Bleak House. I'm glad I did. Shortly after I picked it up again, The Way the Crow Flies took an unexpected (to me) turn. The story revolves around Madeleine, whose teacher who covers the windows of his fourth-grade classroom with holiday artwork, and makes a select group of little girls stay after school for "exercises." It's very difficult to read because MacDonald, through Madeleine McCarthy, is able to weave the progression of abuse and the manipulation of children by a predator into the rest of the events in Madeleine's childhood days in a way that is detailed without being graphic, offering a very clear picture of what is happening and how it is impacting Madeleine and the other children. As Madeleine is hiding her secrets, her father does a favor for an old friend who draws him into a political and ethical tangle, catching him up in his own secrets and lies. A child is murdered, and Madeleine and her father, each with their secrets to keep, may hold the key to solving the mystery.

The story is gripping, sad, beautiful, painful. MacDonald has a gift for writing relationships, depicting the unspoken undercurrents of a marriage, of the relationships between parents and children, of childhood friendships, of how we see one another so clearly and still cannot see the secrets others hold. She's able to write of children and adults in the ways that a child sees them, noticing the details but as yet uncolored by adult compassion and understanding. I almost put the book aside for good. I'm glad that I didn't because it's a haunting story, beautifully written. MacDonald is able to bring the story to a resolution that's hopeful and real. The Way the Crow Flies is partly a murder mystery, and partly a tale of love and loss and lies, how we hurt one another and eventually of how we help one another heal.

1 comment:

Literary Feline said...

I read The Way the Crow Flies earlier this year and loved it. You captured my thoughts exactly. Great review.