Way the Crow Flies

Way the Crow Flies

4.2 58
by Ann-Marie MacDonald

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The optimism of the early sixties, infused with the excitement of the space race and the menace of the Cold War, is filtered through the rich imagination of high-spirited, eight-year-old Madeleine, who welcomes her family's posting to a quiet Air Force base near the Canadian border. Secure in the love of her beautiful mother, she is unaware that her father, Jack,


The optimism of the early sixties, infused with the excitement of the space race and the menace of the Cold War, is filtered through the rich imagination of high-spirited, eight-year-old Madeleine, who welcomes her family's posting to a quiet Air Force base near the Canadian border. Secure in the love of her beautiful mother, she is unaware that her father, Jack, is caught up in a web of secrets. When a very local murder intersects with global forces, Jack must decide where his loyalties lie, and Madeleine will be forced to learn a lesson about the ambiguity ofhuman morality — one she will only begin to understand when she carries herquest for the truth, and the killer, into adulthood twenty years later.

Editorial Reviews

“Astonishing in its depth and breath, it artfully weaves one family’s struggles into the fabric of the Cold War.”
Seattle Times
“Beautifully crafted … To submit to … THE WAY THE CROW FLIES is to be both transported and haunted.”
New Jersey Courier Post
“Heartbreaking, startling, profound.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“Ambitious … interesting …tender, generous …[THE WAY THE CROW FLIES] is both an unblinking and a big hearted book.”
Booklist (starred review)
“MacDonald’s most impressive accomplishment is her uncanny ability … to vividly re-create the wonder, humor, and fears of childhood.”
San Diego Union-Tribune
“Rich and complex … hard to put down … MacDonald deserves another prize for THE WAY THE CROW FLIES.”
New York Times Book Review
“Both terrifying and moving.”
"MacDonald’s most impressive accomplishment is her uncanny ability … to vividly re-create the wonder, humor, and fears of childhood."
People Magazine
"Astonishing in its depth and breath, it artfully weaves one family’s struggles into the fabric of the Cold War."
The New York Times
A novel of the cold war whose main characters bear the name of McCarthy? Sure. As we are cautioned in Ann-Marie MacDonald's new novel, some things can only be ''caught by the corner of the eye. Like phosphorescence in a cave; look away and you will see.'' And so these characters hail from Canada, have nothing to do with Senator Joe, and their baby-boom family gives us a parallax view of sputnik and the Cuban missile crisis, the arms race and the space race, the brain drain from East to West, even military intelligence games, from the shadow of empire. — Art Winslow
The Washington Post
The Way the Crow Flies is a brilliant portrayal of child abuse and its consequences, but it is much more than that. It is a fiercely intelligent look at childhood, marriage, families, the 1960s, the Cold War and the fear and isolation that are part of the human condition...it is not only beautifully written; it is equally beautiful in its conception, its compassion, its wisdom, even in its anger and pain. Don't miss it.— Patrick Anderson
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. 8-city author tour. (Oct. 1) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An ambitious tale of a once-happy family changed forever by one year in the 1960s when the father's participation in Cold War intrigue goes tragically awry. Bestselling MacDonald (the Oprah-picked Fall on Your Knees, 1997) interweaves Cold War tensions and the space race to give her story an intriguing, if at times overreaching, plot, but that also makes for a long and padded read. The McCarthy family is posted back to Canada in 1962 after serving in Germany. The Cold War is at its height, the Cuban Missile Crisis is heating up, as is the race to the moon, and Jack McCarthy has been picked to head an officer's training school in Ontario. His French-Canadian wife Mimi and their two children, Mike and Madeleine, are happy to be home, but must soon face unexpected challenges. Eight-year-old Madeleine is close to Jack, but she doesn't tell him or Mimi about her teacher Mr. March, who makes her and other girls stay after school to perform sexually abusive "exercises." Jack soon has his secrets, too, when an old friend, British diplomat Simon Crawford, asks him to look after a defector, an East German scientist, now in transit to the US. Then Claire, a classmate of Madeleine's, is brutally raped and murdered, and both Madeleine and Jack face a moral crisis. Rick, the adopted son of a Holocaust survivor, is arrested, and Jack could save him-but that would blow his cover. And Madeleine won't lie, as requested, about where she saw Rick that day. Rick is sentenced, and a stricken Jack, who never recovers from the guilt, requests a transfer. Madeleine, a lesbian now in her 30s, takes up the narrative. Though a successful comedian, she's suddenly experiencing panic attacks that lead her to find outwho really killed Claire that long-ago afternoon. Strained at times, but, still, a grand, sweeping saga. Agent: Andrew Wylie/Wylie Agency

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
P.S. Series
Edition description:
First Perennial Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.50(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Way the Crow Flies
A Novel

Chapter One

Many-Splendoured Things

The sun came out after the war and our world went Technicolor. Everyone had the same idea. Let's get married. Let's have kids. Let's be the ones who do it right.

It is possible, in 1962, for a drive to be the highlight of a family week. King of the road, behind the wheel on four steel-belted tires, the sky's the limit. Let's just drive, we'll find out where we're going when we get there. How many more miles, Dad?

Roads are endless vistas, city gives way to country barely mediated by suburbs. Suburbs are the best of both worlds, all you need is a car and the world is your oyster, your Edsel, your Chrysler, your Ford. Trust Texaco. Traffic is not what it will be, what's more, it's still pretty neat. There's a '53 Studebaker Coupe! -- oh look, there's the new Thunderbird ...

"'This land is your land, this land is my land ... '" A moving automobile is second only to the shower when it comes to singing, the miles fly by, the landscape changes, they pass campers and trailers -- look, another Volkswagen Beetle. It is difficult to believe that Hitler was behind something so friendly-looking and familiar as a VW bug. Dad reminds the kids that dictators often appreciate good music and are kind to animals. Hitler was a vegetarian and evil. Churchill was a drunk but good. "The world isn't black and white, kids."

In the back seat, Madeleine leans her head against the window frame, lulled by the vibrations. Her older brother is occupied with baseball cards, her parents are up front enjoying "the beautiful scenery." This is an ideal time to begin her movie. She hums "Moon River," and imagines that the audience can just see her profile, hair blowing back in the wind. They see what she sees out the window, the countryside, off to see the world, and they wonder where it is she is off to and what life will bring, there's such a lot of world to see. They wonder, who is this dark-haired girl with the pixie cut and the wistful expression? An orphan? An only child with a dead mother and a kind father? Being sent from her boarding school to spend the summer at the country house of mysterious relatives who live next to a mansion where lives a girl a little older than herself who rides horses and wears red dungarees? We're after the same rainbow's end, just around the bend ... And they are forced to run away together and solve a mystery, my Huckleberry friend ...

Through the car window, she pictures tall black letters superimposed on a background of speeding green -- "Starring Madeleine McCarthy" -- punctuated frame by frame by telephone poles, Moon River, and me ...

It is difficult to get past the opening credits so better simply to start a new movie. Pick a song to go with it. Madeleine sings, sotto voce, "'Que será, será, whatever will be will -- '" darn, we're stopping.

"I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream," says her father, pulling over.

Utterly wrapped up in her movie, Madeleine has failed to notice the big strawberry ice cream cone tilting toward the highway, festive in its party hat. "Yay!" she exclaims. Her brother rolls his eyes at her.

Everything in Canada is so much bigger than it was in Germany, the cones, the cars, the "supermarkets." She wonders what their new house will be like. And her new room -- will it be pretty? Will it be big? Que será, será ... "Name your poison," says Dad at the ice cream counter, a white wooden shack. They sell fresh corn on the cob here too. The fields are full of it -- the kind Europeans call Indian corn.

"Neapolitan, please," says Madeleine.

Her father runs a hand through his sandy crewcut and smiles through his sunglasses at the fat lady in the shade behind the counter. He and her brother have matching haircuts, although Mike's hair is even lighter. Wheat-coloured. It looks as though you could remove waxy buildup from your kitchen floor by turning him upside down and plugging him in, but his bristles are actually quite soft. He rarely allows Madeleine to touch them, however. He has strolled away now toward the highway, thumbs hooked in his belt loops -- pretending he is out in the world on his own, Madeleine knows. He must be boiling in those dungarees but he won't admit it, and he won't wear shorts. Dad never wears shorts.

"Mike, where do you think you're going?" she calls.

He ignores her. He is going on twelve.

She runs a hand through her hair the way Dad does, loving its silky shortness. A pixie cut is a far cry from a crewcut, but it's also mercifully far from the waist-length braids she endured until this spring. She accidentally cut one off during crafts in school. Maman still loves her but will probably never forgive her.

Her mother waits in the Rambler. She wears the sunglasses she got on the French Riviera last summer. She looks like a movie star. Madeleine watches her adjust the rearview mirror and freshen her lipstick. Black hair, red lips, white sunglasses. Like Jackie Kennedy -- "She copied me." Mike calls her Maman, but for Madeleine she is "Maman" at home and "Mum" in public. "Mum" is more carefree than Maman -- like penny loafers instead of Mary Janes. "Mum" goes better with "Dad." Things go better with Coke.

Her father waits with his hands in the pockets of his chinos, removes his sunglasses and squints up at the blue sky, whistling a tune through his teeth. "Smell the corn," he says. "That's the smell of pure sunshine." Madeleine puts her hands in the pockets of her short-shorts, squints up and inhales ...

The Way the Crow Flies
A Novel
. Copyright © by Ann-Marie MacDonald. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Novelist and dramatist Ann-Marie MacDonald is the author of the internationally bestselling and award-winning novel Fall on Your Knees. She is also the playwright of Goodnight Desdemona, Good Morning Juliet, which won the Governor General's Award for Drama. She lives in Toronto.

Brief Biography

Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Date of Birth:
October 29, 1958
Place of Birth:
Baden Baden, West Germany
Graduate, National Theatre School of Canada Acting Program, 1980

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Way the Crow Flies 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 58 reviews.
Camboron More than 1 year ago
If it weren't for the opening page, this book would seem a dreamy, rich view of the haze of summer, childhood, and family life as recounted by a military family moving back to Canada. And this masterful writing instantly creates a resonance with anyone who has ever rode out the last days of summer, wondered about making new friends, and settled in after (another) move. But, like the best books with a murder at the core, this warm feeling is constantly interrupted, with the reader unable to stop wondering how this sense of place and time, and the idyllic will lead us to a corpse. [WARNING: If you read the back of the book, it will actually spoil a major plot point. I still don't know why backs of books are written so terribly!!) Also, like the best of them, you know, with an increasing sense of dread, that the characters you've instantly gotten to know, and care about, their lives will change when all is revealed. When you are given your first clue about the identity of the victim, you exhale, not even realizing how much tension had built up and how so many little innocuous details had grown into suspicion and paranoia. There is enough amazing-ness captured here to make the book murderless---Froelich and Jack discussing the moon while Mimi sings an Acadian folk song in the background., Madeleine getting a ride on a motor scooter, or unpacking her toys. But, with said murder, the tension builds, along with the head-shaking and denial when you find out increasingly horrible things in regards to people you have grown to care about to a great extent. The epilogue--when everyone has grown up, (epilogue longer than some novels, so let's say, the fourth act, could have easily have been a typically portrayed lesbian explaining why the Man has got her down. Instead, every incident and word honestly stems and derives from experiences, memories and personality established in the beginning of the book. Any fiction, where you feel the author is on a soapbox, can stem from character's words or action ineptly formed around the message that is being forced upon you. So, from MacDonald’s' skilled pen comes not words, but life, as you, me, and the next person experienced it. And any direction explored, anything "alternative" or rebellious, stems from real people trying to figure out them elves and the world around them, and how tragedy inexplicably tangles the mind, until we have the years, wisdom and strength to unravel it.
Michelle_TMT More than 1 year ago
This book was really fun to read. I loved the single line references to songs and TV from the 60's. The book had the ability to take me back to my childhood and still be completely intrigued by the story. Then, when the story jumped forward in time, I was still unable to solve the mystery and was completely surprised at the endng. It was an enjoyable read and a good story.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I recently finished reading The Way the Crow Flies, and I can honestly say that this is the first book in a LONG TIME that I couldn't put down. MacDonald writes so that you feel like you can see the RCAF Base and you go to school with the kids and you like the families. The suspense of the story kept me riveted. Two thumbs WAY up!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Way the Crow Flies is a hauntingly beautiful book. It has been years since I've read a novel that has so deeply touched me. Flawless and achingly real, The Way the Crow Flies stands out as a piece of contemporary art.
Guest More than 1 year ago
One of the best books I have read. I could not resist this intricate plot with such well developed characters. One of the few books you will not be able to put down. Haunting in its detail, beautiful in its composition, this author has an amazing gift and I patiently wait for her next masterpiece. This novel is an investment and can't be missed!
lizj22 More than 1 year ago
My grown daughter insisted I read this book. She said it sounded like some of my childhood, with all the military moves. And she was correct. It was a little hard at first to get into it but boy once I did I could put it down! Actually skipped a day of work and spent the whole day reading until I finished. Now of course I miss it. And the best part is all the characters have an ending so you as the reader are not left hanging wondering what became of them. Make sure you read this one especially if you were a child in the 60's it will really bring you back and open up all kinds of memories from that time period.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
And end to innocence story, masterfully told with history weaved throughout the tell. the characters grab you, the plot and descriptions are sometimes languid, sometimes leaving you on the edge of your seat, but never losing your attention. LOVED this and had to continuously tear myself away when other responsibilities called.
wordsilove More than 1 year ago
This is one of those rare books I didn't want to end. The author is not simply talented she's gifted. I'm amazed at her ability to put me right on the scene and especially into the mind of an intelligent, funny, witty Madeleine. I think she handled the subject of child abuse and murder with delicacy while making it clear what was happening. This is real life, not the gratuitous violence pumped out in so many books today. Thank you Ann-Marie MacDonald!! I'm very much looking forward to reading "Fall On Your Knees."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was incredibly well-written with a plot that moves you along but still leaves the ending in question. With a wonderfully-painted picture of life in the early 60s, the author is adept in her descriptions of life as a military brat (in this case, Canadian Air Force, in my case, USAF) and the challenges of moving, making new friends, and of the politics of military life. It takes this from multiple view points: Jack, Madeleine's career military dad, Mimi, Jack's career military wife and Madeleine's mother, and of course, Madeleine herself. Madeleine struggles with friendships, change, and trying to interpret painful adult messages at a young age. This book had one of the most satisfying (though not simple) endings I've read in a long time -- while everything was not wrapped up in a bow, I was left with answers and closure. I can't wait to read Ann-Marie MacDonald's next book!
JAMiller More than 1 year ago
This is the kind of book you read knowing that it will be a while before you read another one like it. Intelligent, emotionally gripping, so descriptive of both a time and a place that you'll believe you can get in touch with the fictional characters. Funny, heartbreaking, insightful and wonderfully written. I have consistently read a book a week for years and this one is on my top ten list of favorites.
Guest More than 1 year ago
After reading 'Fall On Your Knees', I was very eager to read this book and was not disappointed. The intrinsic character development left me so emotionally attached to this family, and although it seemed that it took awhile for the plot to get rolling, I felt that it helped shape the story and create the tone of intimacy with the charcters sharpened the impact of the story. I have noticed a few reviews that stated they thought certain parts of the book were too graphic and too haunting, when the abuse occured. I consider myself to be very sensitive and didn't find them to be gratuitious or in vulgar taste. Abuse of a child is always a haunting subject to say, the least but this was a humble story that was compelling and beautifully written. I would highly recommend this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found this book incredible for how well it was written and the turns and twists in the plot. The book talks about child abuse but is so well written you feel as if it has happened to you and you understand every emotion that the child is experiencing. At times I even had to put it down for awhile because it got to me. But that is how you know an excellant book because it truly allows you to feel what the character is feeling. The book also takes the point of view of a child and captures this very well. Do not read ahead, but know that the end of this book turns everything around on you. Despite how disturbing this book can be it will never leave you.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think just like with graphic music, books should be held to the same standard. I read the back cover of the book and nowhere in the explaination did it say it was going to be about child abuse. I started the book and warmed up to the time period and the characters. When the whole child abuse piece surfaced, I started to skim the book because of the highly disturbing narrative. I was so deeply bothered by some of the chapters that I had to skip them. I think that if this is the main premisis of the book, put it on the back cover. Let the reader know that it contains disturing and graphic information.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed Macdonald's first novel very much and now with this one I am thoroughly convinced of her talent. This book at one moment had me crying, the next angry and swearing aloud at it's characters which is a first for me. This is the first review I have ever written although I read many in my searches for new material. I am an avid 'reader', a housewife with alot of leisure time and also legally blind so I listen to books on tape(almost 100 per year.) I was disappointed by some of the reviews I read about this novel and am glad I didn't take them to heart. I highly reccomend this book, it is long but worth every minute as far as I am concerned. If you are an overly sensitive person it may not be for you however, like I mentioned I was quite touched by i'ts contents. ENJOY!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I picked up the book and couldn't put it down until finished. A great Christmas vacation read. I was totally absorbed and hated the book to end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Jane_V_Blanchard More than 1 year ago
At first I did not like the way the crow flies by Ann-Marie MacDonald. I found the telling of the story from the perspective of each member of the  McCarthy family confusing. As I became familiar with the family members (the parents Jack and Mimi and the siblings Mike and Madeleine) and the story developed, I could not put down the book. The story takes place in the early 1960s on the Centralia air force base in Ontario, Canada, at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, before feminism, and when children were seen as innocents and shielded from the sins of the adult world. As a child of that era, I enjoyed the many references to the-then pop culture. This is not a book about nostalgia but about the grey areas, ethical choices,  and lies and deception that affect the McCarthy family. Eight-year-old Madeleine has a secret. She along with other girls in her class are molested by a teacher. Jack, an officer in the RCAF is working on a secret mission and lies to keep Mimi and others from finding out about it, and then struggles with the moral issues that arise. Even the neighbors have secrets. When one of Madeleine’s class mates is found murdered in a field, the story becomes complex. Both the father and daughter must chose whether to reveal their secrets or not, and then they must live with their decision. To me, solving the murder was less intriguing than following the character development and excellently weaved stories from the child versus adult point of view. I wanted Madeleine’s parents to notice what was happening to their daughter. I wanted Jack to make different decisions than he did. I wanted a different outcome from the trial. But, the author reminds us, life is not always about what we want. Ms. MacDonald’s writing style is a pleasure to read from a technical point of view. She is a wonderful wordsmith, and uses metaphors and similes, stream of consciousness, and striking comparisons to narrate this complex story. I enjoyed studying her style as much as reading the book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read MacDonald's novel "Fall On Your Knees" previously and it was very good as well, although I enjoyed "The Way the Crow Flies" more. The both contain the dark undercurrent of sexual abuse, but also redemption and a poignant beauty. There is a little bit of everything in this novel: the mystery at the root of the story, the love of the MacCarthys, even humor.. I recommend this book especially if you enjoy an epic tale that touches every emotion, and if you liked MacDonald's previous works.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Everytime i try to read this book i fall asleep! Very boring. If i could return it i would.
Kerrie_Ryan More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book and would recommend. Ann-Marie has a way of developing characters and painting a scene - which allows you to feel present. I love Madeleine. I loved Jack. Each of these characters were so real...the book does get dark at times. Beautifully written. Strong characters. Heartbreaking story.
Pauline Papanikolaou More than 1 year ago
well written, intriguing story! i couldn't put it down!
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