Book review: Crow Lake

Crow Lake by Mary Lawson received a mixed reception. Some loved it, and some found it lacking in plot. The story is set in a remote community in northern Ontario.  The four Morrison children left orphaned when their parents are killed in a car accident and Luke, just on the cusp of going to college shoulders the responsibility of looking after his siblings.  Kate who is 7 years old when the accident happens is the narrator and the tale of the impact on the family is intertwined with that of Kate as an adult, a successful young academic.

The writing is lovely – smooth and elegant it carries you forward easily, although there is an air of anticipation hanging over the narrative. The characterisations are believable and realistic – particularly the capturing of the isolation and shock from the point of view of a 7 year old. Bo, the baby sister is delightful.  The focus of the story is on the relationship between Kate and Matt, her brilliant elder brother whom she idolises but events and Kate’s reluctance to communicate cause them to drift apart much to the sadness of both.

We were touched by the portrayal of the local community – wanting to supportive without seeming to squash the feelings of the teenagers struggling to cope. We talked about the way Lawson captures the point of view of a 7 year old – not fully comprehending what is going on in her brothers’ lives and emotions, and definitely not ready for more loss. There was also a thread based on Kate’s life as a scientist on the effects of pollution on ponds and their resident invertebrates.