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The Way The Crow Flies: A Book About Secrets and Lost Innocence

abstract:Ann-Marie MacDonald's second novel, The Way the Crow Flies tops bestseller charts in the paperback edition in her home country.  It portrays the Canadian Cold War perspective as experienced by the McCarthy family, who live in a small Ontario border town on an RCAF military base. 

article:

January 01, 2005
The Story

Eight-year old Madeleine has a secret and so does her father Jack. Both find themselves struggling with the gray areas of right and wrong, truth and responsibility. How they deal with their respective ordeals reveals the shaping of morality in one and the shattering of it in the other. Everyone's lost innocence is reflective of the generation, and perhaps the greatest indictment the post-coldwar social order.

 

MacDonald captures both the era and the itinerant life that military families endure. She writes from first-hand experience; her father was an officer in the RCAF stationed in Baden Baden, Germany post-WWII as part of the NATO Alliance.

 

We are immediately drawn into Madeleine's child world of self-discovery and helplessness against an adult abuser who is manipulating she and her three classmates. The fact that she seeks counsel and moral guidance from her father—who is struggling through his own ordeal of deception and moral obligation—keeps us hoping that justice will prevail. 

 

When the disappearance and murder of Madeleine's classmate occurs, the whole town unites to find the killer. The ensuing trial is based on a real-life court case in Canada that occured in the '50s that is said to have turned the tide against capital punishment.

 

MacDonald's dramatic background and her skill as an award-winning playwright bring an added element of suspense to the story. It is written as a classical Greek tragedy, with a chorus introducing each chapter. The chorus reports the cold hard facts of the story, which is followed by a narration of either Madeleine or Jack. 

It is the secret transaction of the soul. We see the picture unfold, know what is coming, but are helpless to intervene and this foreknowledge serves to heighten the reader's tension. 

Greek Tragedy

Greek Tragedy sprang from the Greek Epic: the struggle of freedom against fate; freewill against destiny. Its purpose was as a platform to instruct people in ethics, and I think Ann-Marie MacDonald's uses it toward this end. 

 

The fact that the book is divided into two phases of Madeleine's life—as a child and then as an adult, is at first difficult. We become attached to the young character. We don't want to leave this stage of her life. 

 

But the resolution of the characters' lives is important to the message of the story, not just the cataclysmic events that set them on their course. I was glad to know how Madeleine's life, the lives of her family and the key members of the town of Centralia turn-out. It is her final statement on lost innocence and the secrets that marked the era itself.

Readers will be interested to learn about the controversial scuttling of Canada's successful aerospace industry alluded to in the novel — the Avro Arrow company.  Follow the link below for further information on this topic.

 

About the Author

 

Ann-Marie MacDonald's first book, Fall On Your Knees (1997) won the Commonwealth Prize for Best First Ficton; The CAA Harlequine Literary Award for Ficton; The Dartmouth Book Award; and was Shortlisted for the Giller Prize (1996), the Trillium Award, Britain's Orange Prize for Best Novel by a woman writer, as well as the Dublin Literary Award. It was an Oprah book selection. Her play, Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet), won the Governor General's Award for Drama, the Chalmers Award for Outstanding Play, and the Candian Author's Association Award.

 

MacDonald has also acted in fifteen films and plays, winning a Genie nomination and a Gemini Award along the way. She lives in Toronto, Canada, and is the host of the popular CBS Life and Times television program.

 

Links for Further Consideration

 

 

 

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