Crow Lake- Complex characters, nostalgic story

Firstly I need to admit that I am a real fan of Mary Lawson’s writing. I first read her book ‘The Other Side of the Bridge’ a few years ago as it was in the local library, and really enjoyed it, but hadn’t read another of her books until now.

What I like most about her books is that she really develops the characters well and they are all very relatable, complex and therefore believable which makes it easier to be taken into the world of the book. The dialogue is also realistic, and there are so many elements of what is not said, or what is implied only by body language, which is exactly like life.

Crow Lake follows the Morrison family growing up on an American farm in Ontario. The book centres on Kate’s viewpoint as she and her older brothers, Matt and Simon and her little sister Bo navigate life without their parents who are killed in a car crash at the beginning of the novel. Simon, her eldest brother, was going to go to teacher training college before his parents died. After they died he takes on the role of providing for the family. Matt is the ‘brainy’ one of the family, and is tipped to go to University, however through his own actions, makes that dream impossible, something that Kate really struggles with in adulthood.

I read this book from cover to cover in a ridiculously short space of time, mainly because the story was so compelling and I wanted to find out what happened to each of the family members as they grew up into adults. Kate, the narrator becomes a zoologist, encouraged by her childhood passion of visiting the nearby ponds with her older brother Matt, who she idolises. Simon and Matt stay in Ontario and manage the farm together, something which Kate sees as a ‘tragedy’. It is this viewpoint that means Kate rarely goes home in adulthood to visit her brothers and sisters and puts a wedge between her and Matt who she once so idolised.

To me, the writing was a mixture of Elizabeth Strout’s well thought out character development and John William’s sense of beautiful and poetic writing. A book I would wholeheartedly recommend.

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