Monday, March 24, 2014

Crow Lake (Mary Lawson)

I loved this book. This is a simple yet beautiful story. I found myself slowing down as I read to be sure I didn't miss any subtleties. The complexities of family relationships and perception as they move through life with all of it's tragedies and changes were very real. This is a book worth reading again.

Goodreads Summary:
Crow Lake is that rare find, a first novel so quietly assured, so emotionally pitch perfect, you know from the opening page that this is the real thing-a literary experience in which to lose yourself, by an author of immense talent.

Here is a gorgeous, slow-burning story set in the rural "badlands" of northern Ontario, where heartbreak and hardship are mirrored in the landscape. For the farming Pye family, life is a Greek tragedy where the sins of the fathers are visited on the sons, and terrible events occur-offstage.

Centerstage are the Morrisons, whose tragedy looks more immediate if less brutal, but is, in reality, insidious and divisive. Orphaned young, Kate Morrison was her older brother Matt's protegee, her fascination for pond life fed by his passionate interest in the natural world. Now a zoologist, she can identify organisms under a microscope but seems blind to the state of her own emotional life. And she thinks she's outgrown her siblings-Luke, Matt, and Bo-who were once her entire world.
In this universal drama of family love and misunderstandings, of resentments harbored and driven underground, Lawson ratchets up the tension with heartbreaking humor and consummate control, continually overturning one's expectations right to the very end. Tragic, funny, unforgettable, Crow Lake is a quiet tour de force that will catapult Mary Lawson to the forefront of fiction writers today.

Good quotes: 

p. 3

My great-grandmother Morrison fixed a book rest to her spinning wheel so that she could read while she was spinning, or so the story goes. And one Saturday evening she became so absorbed in her book that when she looked up, she found that it was half past midnight and she had spun for half an hour on the Sabbath day. Back then, that counted as a major sin.


Just after Laurie Pye runs away from his abusive father:

(P. 216) Nothing to do I with us. That is what I thought. I didn't know that the Pyes' story was already starting to converge with our own. No one knew. We were all bumbling along, the Morrisons and the Pyes and the Mitchells and the Janies and the Stanoviches and all the others, side by side, week in, week out, that our paths similar in some ways and different in others, all apparently running parallel. But parallel lines never meet.


P. 221 Laurie was just one more dropped stitch in a family tapestry already full of holes.


p. 282 Daniel said, "Well, I agree with you about one thing, Kate. I do think there's a tragedy here. But I don't think it's what you think it is."

.......He wiped his hand on his shirt and retrieved his coffee and said, "You'll say I don't understand, just like you think Marie doesn't understand, but I think I do. Some of it anyway. Your family's had a real struggle, all those generations and everything, all of you striving toward this great goal. And Matt's obviously brilliant, anyone can see that. So I can see it was a disappointment. He had his chance and he blew it, Which is a real shame."

He gave me a brief, almost apologetic smile. "But it's just a shame. It's not a tragedy. It makes no difference to Matt is. Can't you see that? No difference at all. The tragedy is that you think it's so important. So important you're letting it destroy the relationship the two of you had."

He must have seen my incredulity, because he hesitated, eyeing me uneasily. He said, "I'm not trying to say it doesn't matter to him, Kate - that he's miraculously discovered that he loves farming, so it's all turned out for the best, or some crap like that .I'm not saying that. I'm just saying that from what you've told me about him and what I've seen of him, my guess is that he came to terms with it a long time ago. The problem is, you didn't. And as a consequence, he's lost what he had with you. That's the real tragedy.

Strange how parts of your brain can continue to function normally when other parts have come to a dead stop. I could hear Matt and Simon's voices; I saw the car getting nearer; in the distance a couple of crows were quarrelling; my brain recorded it all faithfully. But within me, for a long moment, there was total silence. A paralysis of the mind. And then gradually things started up again, and with the return of conscious thought came an absolute flood tide of disbelief, confusion and furious resentment. Daniel, of all people, an outsider, a guest, who had dragged the story out of me, who had known Matt scarcely twelve hours. That he could look at our lives and casually, carelessly, knowing nothing about it, come to such a conclusion. I could hardly believe that I had heard time right - hardly believe that he had said it.


p. 289 I suppose the real question is not why I saw it then, but why I didn't see it years ago. Grand-Grandmother Morrison, I accept that the fault is largely mine, but I hold you partly to blame. It is you, with your love of learning, who set the standard against which I have judged everyone around me, all my life. I have pursued your dream single-mindedly; I have become familiar with books and ideas you never even imagined, and somehow, in the process of acquiring all that knowledge, I have managed to learn nothing at all.

p. 290

I would like to be able to say that I threw myself into the spirit of it all, but the truth is, I still felt a bit dazed. A bit abstracted. It's going to take time, I guess. If you've thought a certain way for many years, if you've had a picture in your mind of how things are and that picture is suddenly shown to be faulty, well, it stands to reason that it will take a while to adjust. And during that time, you're bound to feel...disconnected. Anyway, that was how I felt, and still feel, to some degree. What I would really have liked to do was sit quietly somewhere, preferably under a tree, and watch the goings-on from a distance. In particular, watch Matt. Let my eyes absorb this new view of him, this new perspective on our lives.

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