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The Way the Crow Flies by Ann-Marie…

The Way the Crow Flies (edition 2003)

by Ann-Marie MacDonald

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1,875563,682 (4.06)66
Title:The Way the Crow Flies
Authors:Ann-Marie MacDonald
Info:Harper (2003), Paperback
Collections:Your library

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The Way the Crow Flies by Ann-Marie MacDonald

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English (53)  Dutch (2)  German (1)  All languages (56)
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"When stories are not told, we risk losing our way. Lies trip us up, lacunae gape like blanks in a footbridge. Time shatters and, though we strain to follow the pieces like pebbles through the forest, we are led farther and farther astray. Stories are replaced by evidence. Moments disconnected from eras. Exhibits plucked from experience.
We forget the consolation of the common thread-the way events are stained with the dye of the stories older than the facts themselves.
We lose our memory.
This can make a person ill.
This can make a world ill."

When I first picked up this book, I read the description and the tags and labels that people had pinned on it. When I first looked at this book, I did not think I'd ever read this.

What persuaded me to read it was that MacDonald's first book was written so well that I wanted to see how she would tell the story of The Way the Crow Flies.

But how can you tell this story of the murder of a child - even if the story is partly based of the real life case of Steven Truscott? How can you tell of the lies and secrets that unravel the lives of everyone involved? Of the naivety of the individuals that condemn evil and, yet, at the same fail to see that it is their own simple-mindedness that fuels the travesty of justice that ensues?

MacDonald tells it masterfully. She uses imagery and language that packs a punch. Never overly evocative or manipulative, she shows each story from the characters point of view - and this at times makes you want to stop reading and jump in and shake the person. At other times, this makes you draw the book in closer and cling to every page to find out what happens next.

The Way the Crow Flies is, however, not only the story of a community torn apart by the murder. The book goes deeper. Whilst the books' main character, Madeleine, tries to deal with the events in her own life - events which she feels she cannot speak of, which she feels she needs to protect her family from -, her father, Jack, becomes entangled in a cold war scientific espionage plot in aid of the West's race to the moon.
A boys' own adventure, which in turn will make him question everything he believes in. But to what end? And while he is keen to teach his daughter that the truth must be told, is he mature enough to take responsibility for the consequences?

On another level, MacDonald draws out the individual dilemmas against a historical context - not just the backdrop of the Cold War, but also that of the Second World War - paralleling the space race to the development of the V2 and the atomic bomb. All are inextricably linked through the people that were involved. However, this link creates an issue - How can the same people be working for opposing ideologies?

"But he has enough - his children have enough - to cope with, never mind taking on the past. To report this man would not only be futile; it would be to exhume what is cold and can never heal. To haunt his new family with the inconsolable griefs of his old one."

The book does not try to answer this question but offers serious food for thought. Because the stories, or rather the secrets of both, father and daughter, are bound to test their ideals, their perception of each other and of the world.

"This precious mess. Democracy. How much can be done in its name before, like an egg consumed by a snake, it becomes a mere shell?"

Without knowing of each other's secrets, both main characters are wounded in the process. Are they able to heal?

The Way the Crow Flies has seriously impressed me. MacDonald has not only written a mystery, a political thriller, and a court room drama all in one, she also created a deep and complex psychological tour de force that questions whether the reality we perceive always ties up with the facts and how this reality changes as we mature. Individuals are defined by their story unless they take action to confront it.

Nina says: "Fear isn't the opposite of courage."
"It's the prerequisite to courage."

Review originally posted on BookLikes: http://brokentune.booklikes.com/post/1082831/the-way-the-crow-flies ( )
  BrokenTune | Aug 21, 2016 |
writing is so good that it propels you through the story, page after exhausting page
  frahealee | Apr 3, 2016 |
It took me 16 years after having read Ann-Marie MacDonald's first novel to read her second. What a waste of time! The Way the Crow Flies is a brilliant novel that moved me both to laughter and to tears. It is a brickstone of a novel, but I didn't look forward to leaving the characters that I had learned to understand and empathize with over the cause of more than 700 pages. The novel is marketed as a crime story, but this is nothing like the crime novels you'll pick up in a hurry at airports. The story of nine-year old Madeleine and her family and friends and foes on the air force base in Canada in the early 19060s is an emotional study of people of our time, how small events can turn life on its head, but also how fundalmental events can be pushed down into the unconscious, at least for a while. The characters are so well drawn that it feels incolceivable that they are not real people. I know the novel is both based on real events and on the author's own upbringing, but that does not take away from the feat of creating characters of flesh and blood. I am particularly impressed by how the children's characters are made believable. The novel's two parts are very different but equally good. My only minor complaint is that the first part of the book is a bit uneventful, but in no way less readable. MacDonald wants to draw us completely into this world before she really begins to make things happen. Why MacDonald's books have not reached a wider audience outside North America is beyond belief. ( )
  petterw | Mar 23, 2016 |
I put this book down after getting about one-fifth of the way through. Interminable descriptions of conversations, scenes, people, all for what? I was also turned off by a generous scattering of french phrases thrown in everywhere, which of course I couldn't understand. Maybe someone who has a lot of time to read would like this book better. ( )
  KathyGilbert | Jan 29, 2016 |
Precocious, smart and funny 9-year old Madeleine is not prepared for the series of events that occur on the Canadian air force base of Centralia in early 60's. No one could have anticipated what would happen. Many years later Madeleine is able to figure out what actually occurred.

Her father Jack has been transferred back to Canada after having been posted in Germany which he, his beautiful Acadian wife Mimi, older son Mike and Madeleine, his “old buddy” loved. Jack had history in Centralia: it was here he learned to fly, and then nearly died in a freak accident, ending his piloting career. At that time he was simply an angry young man but years later he realized the accident probably saved his life because many of the pilots who did fly never made it home alive.

MacDonald creates strong settings that feel familiar. The timing and pacing are amazing, i.e. Jack being seen in the phone booth by Boucher, the time when Jack waved to Ricky on that fateful day. The dialogue stands out as well because it is so normal and mediocre until you listen to the underlying nuances.

Innocence and guilt are major themes in The Way the Crow Flies. It seems the girls who remain in class after 3pm protect their parents’ “all’s right with our world” innocence by not telling them about Mr. March. It definitely takes a village to raise a child but the adults on the base were naïve about their children’s lives. Most were good, well-meaning parents pre-occupied with the minutia of life. They simply did not worry about their children. Claire, Grace and Ricky are all innocent but left unprotected.

And then there are Jack and Simon. Both are smart and committed to the Canadian Air Force; trained to be loyal cogs and do “their jobs.” (We all know who else were just doing their jobs during WWII!) Pressured by Simon, Jack is forced to make a difficult decision which negatively impacts him, his family, Ricky and his family.

The novel’s main plot is where guilt comes in. What was the moral cost of ramping up the space program in Canada and the US with mass murderers? The US invited nazi scientists in but didn’t allow many Jews from Europe safe haven during the war when our government knew these Jews would face certain death!

Outstanding and substantial novel with much to think about. ( )
1 vote Bookish59 | Dec 19, 2014 |
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We are doomed to choose, and every choice
may entail an irreparable loss.
-- Isaiah Berlin
For Mac and Lillian
So many "remember whens"
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The birds saw the murder.
The sun came out after the war and our world went Technicolor.
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Book description
For Madeine McCarthy, high-spirited and eight years old, her family's posting to a quiet air force base near the Canadian-American border is at first welcome, secure as she is in the love of her beautiful mother, and unaware that her father, Jack, is caught up in his own web of secrets. The base is host to some intriguing inhabitants, including the unconventional Froelich family, and the odd Mr. March whose power over the children is a secret burden that they carry.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0060586370, Paperback)

The Way the Crow Flies, Ann-Marie MacDonald's follow-up novel to her bestselling debut (and Oprah Book Club pick), 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 favorite 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, Amazon.ca

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:19 -0400)

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Twenty years after her early-1960s-military father is forced to choose between loyalties in the wake of a local murder, Madeleine begins to understand the case's implication and launches a search for the killer.

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