Ann-Marie MacDonald

"The Way the Crow Flies"

(Reviewed by Jenny Dressel NOV 30, 2003)

“It is possible, in 1962, for a drive to be the highlight of a family week. King of the road, behind the wheel on four steel-belted tires, the sky’s the limit. Let’s just drive we’ll find out where we’re going when we get there. How many more miles, Dad.”

The Way the Crow Flies by Anne-Marie MacDonald

Ann-Marie MacDonald’s new novel, The Way the Crow Flies is a story of a family -- the McCarthys -- when times were more serene. Jack, Mimi, and their two children, Mike and Madeleine are moving to a new home in Canada. Jack, a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force, is being re-stationed at the flight school in Centralia. They were last stationed in Europe. The family is quite used to moving from one base to another; this happens for most military families every two years. Military housing is the same across the globe -- family and your wife’s decorating prowess is what makes the home. Mimi is an excellent military wife and mother. She takes pride in her home.

Read excerptThe time is the early sixties. World War II is over and the Allies won. It is evident that the Nazis are no longer the threat; now the West is concerned over the Russians and communism. The Cold War is in high gear and the “race to the moon” is on.

At first blush, we see a wonderfully happy Air Force family, devoted to each other and the values and morals of loyal Canadians. Jack is managing the flight school, Mimi is making wonderful home cooked meals, Mike is doing a bang up job on the baseball team, and Madeleine is making new friends and looking forward to the new school year. The world is changing though, and the McCarthys’ are being threatened. Russia is moving nuclear missiles into Cuba, and the United States is none too pleased. Kennedy is threatening, and this shall impact Canada also. The Canadians are loyal to the United States and Kennedy, but anything which happens to the United States will also impact their neighbor to the north.

At the same time, and old friend of Jack’s enlists him to help a Russian defector who may not be just the rocket scientist he claims to be. And a little fourth-grade girl is murdered right outside the military base. The safety which everyone took for granted is swiftly disappearing.

This story is told mainly through the eyes of Jack, 36 at the time and totally devoted to his family; and Madeleine, 8 and a precocious, fun little girl. These characters go through quite a change from the beginning of the book and I found it interesting how the author gets us from one time to another. She has a gift in creating a strong community of characters, and each and every one is astar in his or her own right.

MacDonald’s epic novel is akin to Gone With The Wind. She has done a wonderful job of portraying a time and a whole generation of people, during which the world was a much more innocent place. Her insights into Canada and their history was eye-opening for me. I enjoyed learning about our ally and ever-loyal neighbor during these times of change.

MacDonald’s knack for detail is great. The Way the Crow Flies is similar to her previous novel, Falling On Your Knees in this respect. She has exquisite descriptions, and when reading her work, my imagination is completely engaged. I can tell you that when I was reading this novel, my nightly dreams were filled with the McCarthy family and military base in Centralia. This is a rare occurrence for me and can only be explained by being totally engaged by the story -- MacDonald started a movie in my head. During one particular part, when the little girl is missing, I had tears in my eyes.

This is a large one, over seven hundred pages, but I found it totally engrossing and quite unpardonable. And I’ll even give you a hint, when you think you understand, you don’t; MacDonald has put a few twists in here to keep you turning those pages.

  • Amazon readers rating: from 117 reviews

Read a chapter excerpt from The Way the Crow Flies at MostlyFiction.com



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About the Author:

Ann-Marie MacDonaldAnn-Marie MacDonald is an award winning novelist, playwright and actor. Her first play, Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) , was premiered in 1988 by The Nightwood Theatre, and since has had over 100 productions in Canada, the U.S. and abroad. It also won the Governor General's Award for Drama, the Chalmers Award for Outstanding Play and the Canadian Authors' Association Award for Drama.

Fall On Your Knees was published in the New Face of Fiction program in 1996, as well as being selected for Oprah's Book Club.

MacDonald has performed in theatres across Canada, and continues to act in film, television and theatre. Screen credits include I've Heard the Mermaids Singing, Where the Spirit Lives (Gemini Award) and most recently the role of Frances in Better Than Chocolate. Her latest theatre production is the new musical comedy, Anything that Moves, with script by Ann-Marie MacDonald and Alisa Palmer, lyrics by MacDonald and music by Allen Cole. Anything That Moves won the Dora Award for Outstanding New Musical.

She lives in Toronto.

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