The Way the Crow Flies

A Novel

Average Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5.
The Way the Crow Flies
Eight-year-old Madeline McCarthy loves her new home in the quiet air force base near the Canadian-American border. But when a local murder intersects with global forces Madeline learns that no one--even her parents--are as they seem ... a lesson she can only begin to understand 20 years later when she resolves to find the truth, and the killer.
Publisher: New York : PerfectBound, 2003
ISBN: 0060721820
Branch Call Number: eNYPL Book
Additional Contributors: OverDrive, Inc


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Jan 05, 2015
  • WVMLStaffPicks rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

An idyllically happy air force family is posted back to Ontario after years abroad, leaving the idealized 50’s to encounter shady cold-war covert operations and a horrific murder in their small community. MacDonald writes a gripping story with elements that every Canadian baby boomer of a certain age recalls vividly -– the Steven Truscott case and the Cuban missile crisis. In this tale of innocence betrayed we are swept along in secrets that breed secrets, the excitement of the space race, the fight against Nazis and Communists, the powerful grip of child abuse and -- most of all -- the worldview of a spirited eight year old.

Apr 27, 2012
  • ceedeegee57 rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

Although not nearly as well recieved as "Fall On Your Knees", it is a mistake to dismiss this book as an also ran.
Each time I reread it I find more to love, her characters carry with them joy and heartbreak and bestow them on the reader in often surprising ways.
At times a mystery and a piece of Canadian historical fiction, "The way the crow flies" is really about the love and pain and tragedies (and indeed triumphs) each family carries with them and how they make us who we are.
Haunting, chilling, and sadly beautiful but never afraid to laugh with our frailties, MacDonald proves here again she knows how to tell a cracker of a story.

Dec 19, 2011
  • jmikesmith rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

[Warning: this is a long review, but this complex book merits it.]

This is a long, thoughtful, and multi-layered novel. It was recommended to me as a good depiction of life growing up on Canadian military bases, as I did. And it is. It centres around 8-year-old Madeleine McCarthy, who's on her fourth move in 1962, and her father Jack McCarthy, a Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) officer. The early part of the story is about how the McCarthys, including Madeleine's Acadian mother Mimi and her older brother Mike, settle into their new home at RCAF Station Centralia, in central Ontario. Author MacDonald captures very well what it's like moving all the time, setting up in yet another military-supplied house. I've been there and done that and I'll attest to the accuracy. She explains the lifestyle better than I could.

MacDonald writes that when you move all the time, you're not from anywhere that you can locate on a map; you're from a series of events. You define yourself by stories -- what she calls "remember-whens" -- not by home towns. And stories are what I think this book is really about. We tell stories to ourselves to make sense of our pasts. We tell stories to each other. We tell stories at a community or cultural level to make sense of our world. And often, we only know part of anyone else's story.

In addition, we sometimes lie to each other, and even to ourselves, to hide unpleasant truths. Stories and lies drive this novel. Madeleine tells lies to protect her parents from knowing how things are in her Grade 4 class. Jack tells lies to protect the secrecy of a military-intelligence operation he's involved in. And society tells itself lies, or at least omits part of history, to justify actions that are at best unethical and at worst criminal. Throw in post-war World War II optimism and Cold War paranoia, and almost every character in this story is deceived by someone about something. Only the reader knows what's going on, and even we can't be totally sure we have the whole story.

Near the half-way mark, all these stories and lies run against the murder of a child, which is announced on the first page, but not fully recounted until much later. The murder is highly reminiscent of the Stephen Truscott case, which MacDonald acknowledges. Jack and Madeleine both have information that is pertinent. One of them must decide whether to lie, and the other must decide whether to tell the truth. Their decisions have consequences that they must both live with. Nearly 20 years later, the story picks up with Madeleine and Jack having to confront and relive the decisions they made then, and update their stories.

The novel is very well-written, with every word carefully chosen. The whole story is told in the present tense, which gives it an immediacy that makes it very compelling. It is, in short, a page-turner. It is very long, however; over 720 pages. Occasional flashbacks and flash-forwards are also in the present tense, which can be a bit confusing, but it's generally easy to adjust. The first portion, dealing with life on the RCAF station, is slow-moving but still engrossing. The pace picks up with the murder trial and its aftermath. This is a sad, disturbing tale. While there are moments of childhood joy and silliness, the events are, on the whole, demoralizing. This is not a feel-good story, but there are one or two deeply moving scenes that remind us what the real point is: it's all about love.

Aug 03, 2011
  • technojoy rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

Intense and disturbing and utterly absorbing. This is one of the best books I've ever read.

Nov 03, 2010
  • MissTeen1980 rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

This is the BEST BOOK I have read by a Canadian Author, hands down.

Sep 21, 2010
  • Iridollae rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Beautiful, in an aching sort of way. MacDonald has a way with words; she took me back in time and far far away from the very beginning, then led me slowly back again... She exposes sensitive, and often disturbing themes, intricately woven together in a story of loss, growing up, and learning how to let go.

Jul 21, 2010
  • kyokochurch rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

One of my favourite books of all time. Ann-Marie MacDonald is a genius at character and plot development. This novel is at once a coming of age story, an alarmingly realistic portrait of abuse, an interesting depiction of Canadian military family life in the sixities, all wrapped up in an intricate mystery that will take you through twists and turns and keep you guessing until the very end. The way MacDonald navigates the subtleties of emotion Madeline goes through at the hands of her abuser is so painfully imaginable that it makes it a difficult read at times, but certainly a rewarding one. A brilliant addition to Canadian fiction.

Nov 19, 2009
  • 0922 rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

couldn't put it down.

Sep 03, 2009
  • cbarr rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

A fascinating fictionalization of the Steven Truscott case.

Ann-Marie MacDonald captured the feel and flavour of a child's life on Canadian military bases in the 50's-60's.

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May 05, 2010
  • westiestimestwo rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Madeline McCarthy, 60's Cold War, Ontario, murder, Jack


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The Way the Crow Flies
MacDonald, Ann-Marie, 1958-
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