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Crow Lake
     

Crow Lake

4.3 51
by Mary Lawson
 

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Mary Lawson's debut novel is a shimmering tale of love, death and redemption set in a rural northern community where time has stood still. Tragic, funny and unforgettable, this deceptively simple masterpiece about the perils of hero worship leapt to the top of the bestseller lists only days after being released in Canada and earned glowing reviews in The New

Overview

Mary Lawson's debut novel is a shimmering tale of love, death and redemption set in a rural northern community where time has stood still. Tragic, funny and unforgettable, this deceptively simple masterpiece about the perils of hero worship leapt to the top of the bestseller lists only days after being released in Canada and earned glowing reviews in The New York Times and The Globe and Mail, to name a few. It will be published in more than a dozen countries worldwide, including the U.S., the U.K., Germany, Italy and Bulgaria.

Luke, Matt, Kate and Bo Morrison are born in an Ontario farming community of only a few families, so isolated that “the road led only south.” There is little work, marriage choices are few, and the winter cold seeps into the bones of all who dare to live there. In the Morrisons’ hard-working, Presbyterian house, the Eleventh Commandment is “Thou Shalt Not Emote.” But as descendants of a great-grandmother who “fixed a book rest to her spinning wheel so that she could read while she was spinning,” the Morrison children have some hope of getting off the land through the blessings of education. Luke, the eldest, is accepted at teachers college – despite having struggle mightily through school – but before he can enroll, the Morrison parents are killed in a collision with a logging truck. He gives up his place to stay home and raise his younger sisters -- seven-year-old Kate, and Bo, still a baby.

In this family bound together by loss, the closest relationship is that between Kate and her older brother Matt, who love to wander off to the ponds together and lie on the bank, noses to the water. Matt teaches his little sister to watch “damselflies performing their delicate iridescent dances,” to understand how water beetles “carry down an air bubble with them when they submerge.” The life in the pond is one that seems to go on forever, in contrast to the abbreviated lives of the Morrison parents. Matt becomes Kate’s hero and her guide, as his passionate interest in the natural world sparks an equal passion in Kate.

Matt, a true scholar, is expected to fulfill the family dream by becoming the first Morrison to earn a university degree. But a dramatic event changes his course, and he ends up a farmer; so it is Kate who eventually earns the doctorate and university teaching position. She is never able to reconcile her success with what she considers the tragedy of Matt’s failure, and she feels a terrible guilt over the sacrifices made for her. Now a successful biologist in her twenties, she nervously returns home with her partner, a microbiologist from an academic family, to celebrate Matt’s son’s birthday. Amid the clash of cultures, Kate takes us in and out of her troubled childhood memories. Accustomed to dissecting organisms under a microscope, she must now analyze her own emotional life. She is still in turmoil over the events of one fateful year when the tragedy of another local family spilled over into her own. There are things she cannot understand or forgive.

In this universal drama of family love and misunderstandings, Lawson ratchets up the tension, her narrative flowing with consummate control in ever-increasing circles, overturning one’s expectations to the end. Compared by Publishers Weekly to Richard Ford for her lyrical, evocative writing, Lawson combines deeply drawn characters, beautiful writing and a powerful description of the land.


From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A finely crafted debut ... conveys an astonishing intensity of emotion, almost Proustian in its sense of loss and regret."—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“The assurance with which Mary Lawson handles both reflection and violence makes her a writer to read and watch … has a resonance at once witty and poignant.”—New York Times Book Review

Crow Lake is the kind of book that keeps you reading well past midnight; you grieve when it’s over. Then you start pressing it on friends.”—Washington Post Book World

“A touching meditation on the power of loyalty and loss, on the ways in which we pay our debts and settle old scores, and on what it means to love, to accept, to succeed—and to negotiate fate’s obstacle courses.”—People

“Lawson’s tight focus on the emotional and moral effects of a drastic turn of events on a small human group has its closest contemporary analogue in the novels of Ian McEwan.”—Toronto Star

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780440334361
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
11/19/2008
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
304
Sales rank:
5,717
File size:
2 MB

Read an Excerpt

PROLOGUE

My great-grandmother Morrison fixed a book rest to her spinning wheel so that she could read while she was spinning, or so the story goes. And one Saturday evening she became so absorbed in her book that when she looked up, she found that it was half past midnight and she had spun for half an hour on the Sabbath day. Back then, that counted as a major sin.

Im not recounting that little bit of family lore just for the sake of it. Ive come to the conclusion recently that Great-Grandmother and her book rest have a lot to answer for. Shed been dead for decades by the time the events occurred that devastated our family and put an end to our dreams, but that doesnt mean she had no influence over the final outcome. What took place between Matt and me cant be explained without reference to Great-Grandmother. Its only fair that some of the blame should be laid at her door.

There was a picture of her in my parents room while I was growing up. I used to stand in front of it, as a very small child, daring myself to meet her eyes. She was small, tight-lipped, and straight, dressed in black with a white lace collar (scrubbed ruthlessly, no doubt, every single evening and ironed before dawn each day). She looked severe, disapproving, and entirely without humor. And well she might; she had fourteen children in thirteen years and five hundred acres of barren farmland on the Gaspé Peninsula. How she found time to spin, let alone read, Ill never know.

Of the four of us, Luke, Matt, Bo, and I, Matt was the only one who resembled her at all. He was far from grim, but he had the same straight mouth and steady gray eyes. If I fidgeted in church and got a sharp glance from my mother, I would peer sideways up at Matt to see if he had noticed. And he always had, and looked severe, and then at the last possible moment, just as I was beginning to despair, he would wink.

Matt was ten years older than I, tall and serious and clever. His great passion was the ponds, a mile or two away across the railroad tracks. They were old gravel pits, abandoned years ago after the road was built, and filled by nature with all manner of marvelous wriggling creatures. When Matt first started taking me back to the ponds I was so small he had to carry me on his shoulders through the woods with their luxuriant growth of poison ivy, along the tracks, past the dusty boxcars lined up to receive their loads of sugar beets, down the steep sandy path to the ponds themselves. There we would lie on our bellies while the sun beat down on our backs, gazing into the dark water, waiting to see what we would see.

There is no image of my childhood that I carry with me more clearly than that; a boy of perhaps fifteen or sixteen, fair-haired and lanky; beside him a little girl, fairer still, her hair drawn back in braids, her thin legs burning brown in the sun. They are both lying perfectly still, chins resting on the backs of their hands. He is showing her things. Or rather, things are drifting out from under rocks and shadows and showing themselves, and he is telling her about them.

Just move your finger, Kate. Waggle it in the water. Hell come over. He cant resist.

Cautiously the little girl waggles her finger; cautiously a small snapping turtle slides over to investigate.

See? Theyre very curious when theyre young. When he gets older, though, hell be suspicious and bad-tempered.

Why?

The old snapper they had trapped out on land once had looked sleepy rather than suspicious. Hed had a wrinkled, rubbery head, and she had wanted to pat it. Matt held out a branch as thick as his thumb and the snapper chopped it in two.

Their shells are small for the size of their bodies, smaller than most turtles, so a lot of their skin is exposed. It makes them nervous.

The little girl nods, and the ends of her braids bob up and down in the water, making tiny ripples which tremble out across the surface of the pond. She is completely absorbed.

Hundreds of hours, we must have spent that way over the years. I came to know the tadpoles of the leopard frogs, the fat gray tadpoles of the bullfrogs, the tiny black wriggling ones of toads. I knew the turtles and the catfish, the water striders and the newts, the whirligigs spinning hysterically over the surface of the water. Hundreds of hours, while the seasons changed and the pond life died and renewed itself many times, and I grew too big to ride on Matts shoulders and instead picked my way through the woods behind him. I was unaware of these changes of course, they happened so gradually, and children have very little concept of time. Tomorrow is forever, and years pass in no time at all.

CHAPTER ONE

When the end came, it seemed to do so completely out of the blue, and it wasnt until long afterward that I was able to see that there was a chain of events leading up to it. Some of those events had nothing to do with us, the Morrisons, but were solely the concern of the Pyes, who lived on a farm about a mile away and were our nearest neighbors. The Pyes were what youd call a problem family, always had been, always would be, but that year, within the privacy of their big old gray-painted farmhouse, offstage as far as the rest of the community was concerned, their problems were developing into a full-scale nightmare. The other thing we didnt know was that the Pye nightmare was destined to become entangled with the Morrison dream. Nobody could have predicted that.

Theres no end to how far back you can go, of course, when youre trying to figure out where something started. The search can take you back to Adam and beyond. But for our family there was an event that summer catastrophic enough to be the start of practically anything. It took place on a hot, still Saturday in July when I was seven years old, and brought normal family life to an end; even now, almost twenty years later, I find it hard to get any sort of perspective on it.

The only positive thing you can say about it is that at least everything ended on a high note, because the previous day, our last day together as a family, my parents had learned that Luke, my other brother, other than Matt, had passed his senior matriculation and won a place at teachers college. Lukes success was something of a surprise because, to put it mildly, he was not a scholar. I remember reading somewhere a theory to the effect that each member of a family has a role, ”the clever one, the pretty one, the selfish one. Once youve been established in the role for a while, youre stuck with it, no matter what you do, people will still see you as whatever-it-was, but in the early stages, according to the theory, you have some choice as to what your role will be. If thats the case, then early on in life Luke must have decided that what he really wanted to be was the problem one. I dont know what influenced his choice, but its possible that hed heard the story of Great-Grandmother and her famous book rest once too often. That story must have been the bane of Lukes life. Or one of the banes, the other would have been having Matt as a brother. Matt was so obviously Great-Grandmothers true intellectual heir that there was no point in Luke even trying. Better, then, to find what he was naturally good at, raising our parents blood pressure, say, and practice, practice, practice.

But somehow, in spite of himself, here he was at the age of nineteen having passed his exams. After three generations of striving, a member of the Morrison family was about to go on to higher education.


From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

Mary Lawson was born and brought up in a farming community in Ontario. After graduating from McGill University she went to England for a holiday and stayed on; she lives there still, with her husband and sons, though she returns to Canada every year.


From the Hardcover edition.

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Crow Lake 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 51 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It was 15 below zero and windy outside my house as I sat reading Crow Lake,, and yet Mary Lawson had me laying on my belly, peering into a pond teeming with tadpoles and waterbugs. It was a beautiful story of survival and love of family. I will be first in line when her next book hits the shelves.
Guest More than 1 year ago
One of the most enjoyable books I have ever read! It was a beautiful, and touching, story about how we view the world and our loved ones in it and how they view themselves. A real thought provoking journey...I fell in love with the characters, felt I knew them and wanted to continue to be a part of their lives. Beautifully written, the descriptions make you feel you are there....
Guest More than 1 year ago
Excellent book! I just could not put it down! I wanted to know more about what happened with Kate and Daniel, her family, etc when I was finished. Definitely a great read for anyone!
thewanderingjew More than 1 year ago
It is a tender tale which begins with the memories of a seven year child after her family suffers a devastating loss and progresses over the next twenty years. We watch as problems, arise and are resolved, often with unintended consequences. It is a tale about overcoming disaster, about not letting anything stand in your way if you want it enough. Poverty, tragedy, loss, all of these, in and of themselves, are not deterrents to success but they often breed ignorance and in some instances even violence. Education is the key to moving forward but love, dedication and responsibility trump all else and provide the courage necessary to surmount all of the obstacles placed before them on life's journey. It is a book about the effect that just one decision, one mistake of judgment, can have on the rest of your life. It is about accepting what has been handed to you and finding peace within those boundaries. It is about discovering truths about yourself. It is about making lemonade when life hands you lemons. It is about rebuilding and repairing relationships and emotional wounds. It is simply, about life, warts and all.
NancyK27 More than 1 year ago
This story is about a family that has to face a terrible tragedy and how much 2 brothers are willing to sacrifice for their sisters. I was very touched by the relationships and the struggles between the siblings and how much they loved each other. The writing flowed nicely and I was interested in the characters and their relationships both as children and adults. This was one of the best books I've read in a long time and am looking forward to reading her newest book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What a pleasure to read! It was such a joy I just want to know what happened next....made me think of my own family and the places we 'occupy' and I loved the beautiful descriptions....felt like I was there myself!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
One of the best I've read in recent 'history'. Enjoyed it so much I've chosen it for my upcoming Book Club meeting. Can't wait for her next book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I look to many of BN reviews to discover new books, that is how I came to this one and it was such a treat. I had to reread many sentences because they sounded so lyrical and moving. The author was brillant in her writing style, can't wait for more!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is my all-time favorite book. The prose is so beautifully written you can't put it down. Lawson has a style of writing that catches your attention from the first sentence. I love this book and can't wait for her next!
Anonymous 7 months ago
The age old struggle between what could've been and what is, and between those who move on and those who can't let go. A beautuifully written story of family,a series of bad decisions and a future nobody planned.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I too really enjoyed this book, was sad to see it end, and felt connected to the characters. The love and adoration Kate had for Matt was touching. I expected the family's 'crisis' to be more dramatic, there was tremendous build-up to how the Morrison's 'forever became connected to the Pye family.' Overall, however, I really enjoyed it. The author did a great job capturing the characters' personalities well, especially Bo who I found to be very funny. I couldn't put this book down and would recommend it to anyone who loves reading about the drama within a family.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Crow Lake is an excellent choice for readers who love an indepth look into life's struggles and interpersonal relationships. Unique and memorable.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Once I entered the world of Morrisons and Pyes, I couldn't leave until the end. I just finished it and still feel as if I'm a part of their world. Amidst the pain and tribulation there was beauty and love, but Kate just couldn't see it and I feel as if her blindness and resentment broke my heart along with Matt's. I almost feel as if Lawson wrote it specifically to be cheerless because I can't imagine a situation so sad. A phenominal book but probably the saddest I've read in a long time.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I literally felt bereft when this book ended and I had to say goodbye to the characters. This book is moving, beautifully written and captures the essence of family. I loved this book so much-I can't stop thinking about the characters and events.
Guest More than 1 year ago
All I can say is that I'm sorry I read it as quickly as I did. An important reminder that one person's values and disappointments are not the same as anothers. As well as a really good read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Beautifully written, kept my attention all the way through. Wonderful
Anonymous 8 months ago
Loved it from the first sentence.
Anonymous 9 months ago
What a wonderful book. I read Crow Lake because of the reviews and was not disappointed. This author is a great story teller------
NanceeMarchinowski More than 1 year ago
Crow Lake is a book that will change the way you look at family, and life in general. The Morrison family is broken, gritty, but loyal to a fault. The challenges faced by this family over the years are heart rending, overwhelming, yet credible. The characters in the community are authentic, pragmatic, and represent humanity at its basic level. They rise to the occasion consistently, practicing their generosity as a way of life. There is depth to personalities that transcends the norm. I'm still reeling from this incredibly well-written novel. The undercurrents that are evident throughout the book become the pinnacles that bring the story to a powerful ending. I highly recommend this earthy, poignant, and dynamic book.
Esquite More than 1 year ago
Mary Lawson’s “Crow Lake" is a book bigger than itself.  Reading it provided me with two stunning and brilliant self-revelatory moments. I never thought of the absence of my parents in quite such a way as provided by a single sentence of hers , and I am compelled to consider my long-settled perceptions of others and of the nature of my relationships with them; to think about how correct and appropriate, or how distorted and debilitating, my views may be.  I’ve ordered her two presently extant other books with pleasant anticipation.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A slow moving story, one that I could not put down. Great read!
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