The Way the Crow Flies

The Way the Crow Flies

A Novel

Book - 2003 | 1st ed.
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Baker & Taylor
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. By the author of Fall On Your Knees. 150,000 first printing.

Blackwell North Amer

In her highly anticipated new novel, Ann-Marie MacDonald takes us back to a postwar world. For Madeleine 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 family and unaware that her father, Jack, is caught up in his own web of secrets. The early sixties, a time of optimism infused with the excitement of the space race and overshadowed by the menace of the Cold War, is filtered through the rich imagination of a child as Madeleine draws us into her world.

But the base is host to some intriguing inhabitants, including the unconventional Froehlich family, and the odd Mr. March, whose power over the children is a secret burden that they carry. Then tragedy strikes, and a very local murder intersects with global forces, binding the participants for life. As the tension in the McCarthys' household builds, Jack must decide where his loyalties lie, and Madeleine learns about the ambiguity of human morality -- a lesson that will become clear only when the quest for the truth, and the killer, is renewed twenty years later.

The Way the Crow Flies is a novel that is as compelling as it is rich. With her unerring eye for the whimsical, the absurd, and the quintessentially human, Ann-Marie MacDonald stunningly evokes the pain, confusion, and humor of childhood in a perilous adult world. At once a loving portrayal and indictment of an era, The Way the Crow Flies is a work of great heart and soaring intelligence.

& Taylor

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.

Publisher: New York : HarperCollins Publishers, 2003.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9780060578954
Characteristics: 722 p. ; 24 cm.


From the critics

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Jun 26, 2019

Did not see how the crow flies until the end and then I was shocked. Great book.

Jan 03, 2019

Loved this book! Especially for anyone who experiences self doubt, fear of judgement, and wonders how their experience as a child and their parents experience as a child and so forth and so on affects their own behaviour in parenting, relationships and life can relate. The book is also about love, forgiveness and the complexity of family dynamics. ‘Fall on Your Knees’ is one of my favourite all time books, but I love this one just as much.

Jun 22, 2018

I thoroughly enjoyed this book from beginning to end. This author writes so well about events that happened in that particular era and is so spot on about habits, sayings, living styles and anything else you can name. It is a wonderful, can't-put-down book right to the very end. I would recommend it highly - particularly for anyone who lived through the 60's.
And of course, the murder of the little girl - pretty much the story of The Trial of Steven Truscott - though fictionalized, left me wondering how this would turn out. I would definitely give it 5 stars!

Apr 18, 2018

I greatly enjoyed the beginning of this book - I was intrigued by the history lesson and felt like I was making up for the things I missed in grade school. MacDonald has mastered writing from a child's perspective, and it is a delight to shadow Madeline. When pedophilia became a prominent theme and it was immediately obvious it would not be dealt with, I stopped reading. I found a great summary that offered closure for me, and I was glad that I stopped reading when I did. If you are reading the book and struggling as I did, please consider reading:

Apr 26, 2016

I really just thought this book was okay, but I had to add an extra star because the writing is so wonderful.
This is one of those stories that I just can't (or maybe won't, who can say) appreciate. The drama, the characters, the mystery, the why's and wherefores, I just lost interest. The entire middle part of the book was a dead loss to me, though I thought the beginning and the end superb. I loved how it started, with the little girl telling the story of moving, with her fears and understanding of her parents. It was almost magical in the telling. But then the story moves on to her new teacher and her fathers work and became less enchanted, it moves to murder and secrets and I'm not charmed but getting bored, right though to the modern day life of the little girl, all grown up. And then it get better, with her parents retired and the mystery getting solved, the end was good, with just the right amount of closure but leaving some to the imagination.
There is no doubt the the author is extremely talented, it is not easy to take your reader through the emotional wringer and still leave that hope at the end. But for me, this isn't the kind of book I can get invested in.

WVMLStaffPicks Jan 05, 2015

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

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

[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.

technojoy Aug 03, 2011

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

Nov 03, 2010

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

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Apr 14, 2010

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


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