Book Review

Crow Lake – Mary Lawson

Sometimes I run across a fabulous book by the merest of coincidences. As an avid reader of the NYTimes Book Review (yes, even way out here in the hinterlands of Wisconsin we get Sunday delivery), I love their By The Book feature where well-known authors answer a series of sometimes astute, sometimes inane questions about everything literary. In mid-July 2016, Liane Moriarty replied to the question of “What’s the last book you read that you wished you had written?” with “Crow Lake,” by Mary Lawson. “It’s perfect in every way. Every character is so beautifully described and developed — even the toddler, especially the toddler. I relished every moment and every word,” Moriarty said.

She’s right. And amazingly, this is a debut novel. The story centers around the four Morrison siblings, growing up in rural Ontario and struggling to survive after the loss of their parents. Intensely emotional in its depiction of a fractured but loving family, this novel is by turns funny, tragic, and ultimately unforgettable. It is the story of great love and great loss and how the past can reach into the present and affect how we see everything. The minute you read the first chapter, you know you are in the hands of a talented storyteller.

And what did Moriarty mean when she said, “even the toddler—especially the toddler”? You’ll have to read this fabulous book, first published in 2002, to get acquainted with Bo, one of the most memorable two-year-old’s in literature.

A favorite passage: “I’m aware that we are biologically programmed to do many of the things we do. But within those constraints, I believe we have choice. The idea that we are carried along by fate, unable to resist or change direction, sounds suspiciously like an excuse to me.”