The Way the Crow Flies
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

The Way the Crow Flies

4.03 of 5 stars 4.03  ·  rating details  ·  7,024 ratings  ·  746 reviews
The optimism of the early sixties, infused with the excitement of the space race and the menace of the Cold War, is filtered through the rich imagination of high-spirited, eight-year-old Madeleine, who welcomes her family's posting to a quiet Air Force base near the Canadian border. Secure in the love of her beautiful mother, she is unaware that her father, Jack, is caught...more
Paperback, 848 pages
Published August 31st 2004 by Harper Perennial (first published January 1st 2003)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret AtwoodAnne of Green Gables by L.M. MontgomeryLife of Pi by Yann MartelWater for Elephants by Sara GruenA Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
Best Canadian Literature
19th out of 536 books — 432 voters
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret AtwoodAnne of Green Gables by L.M. MontgomeryThe Book of Negroes by Lawrence HillLife of Pi by Yann MartelThe English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
Canadian Fiction
48th out of 477 books — 357 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Dec 03, 2007 Gizmology rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: everyone
I really loved this book and had to read her previous novel, _Fall On Your Knees_, the minute I finished _The Way the Crow Flies_. One thing that struck me about her writing was the fact that in both books, I came to a place fairly soon in each (maybe a third of the way through?) where she related an event that had me literally sobbing and choking with sadness and anger, and then -- after I blew my nose -- furious at McDonald herself as the author! Both times I felt like putting the book down (n...more
What I liked about this book: vivid and well-rounded characters(!), references to pop culture, dialogue in French, intrigue, deception, loyalty, a storybook marriage, historical references, beautiful descriptions of time and place(!), the denouement that left me feeling emotionally exhausted

What I didn't like: some strong language, disturbing scenes of child molestation, the chapters where Madeleine is an adult

I couldn't recommend this book without reservation. However, after plodding through th...more
Solveig C.B.
WOW. Just picked this off the shelf without much consideration and I was completely taken by surprise. Hard book to review as it was such a disturbing subject. I certainly recommend it, but definitely had to limit my reading at times to be able to digest what I was taking in. However, became so close to the main character that I did not want to let go.

Found some parts unneccessarily lengthy. Especially fed up with the road and street references that were continuously repeated.

I also found that t...more
(deep breath) Wow.

#1: writing was really amazing
#2: spot on insight into children's world from child's point of view, along with ability to communicate from child's perspective; if you are a woman, you know that girl, and you may find you were that girl
#3: So many interesting layers; I appreciated the Canadian insecurity, both inward focused (everybody thinks we're lame - and we kind of agree), and outwardly focused (look at what we've done to gain respect, and why don't we have it yet?) I also...more
Nov 26, 2007 Kerry rated it 4 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Adults who appreciate good writing even when the subject matter might be tough to get through
Wow! What a read! I was fascinated by this book. From start to finish, I was captivated by the rich descriptions and character development. Although the subject matter became distasteful at times, I felt I owed it to myself to finish the story, which I am so glad I did. Like real life, the story is unsettling; unresolved; gritty. The way the author intertwined the lives of each character was masterful and often unexpected. I "read" this book on audiocassette which was performed by the author her...more
This was an amazing book. It is very tragic. The theme and material were hard for me to get through. I had to slow down at times to recover from the tragedy, but I am glad I stuck to it. I also had a hard time "getting into" the book. I was not fond of her style and was not drawn to all the military life details that fill the first part of the book. But, I fell in love with this McCarthy family and I just had to soldier on. Of course her style ending up charming my socks off once I got going.
This was SO good! A very tragic, but wonderful story of a family and the events that damage them, the secrets that they keep. But the book was so nostalgic, bringing back sweet memories from my childhood. Very enjoyable.
This book is really incredible. It is rich with history and the prose is beautiful. The real crime case of Canadian Steven Truscott, who was wrongfully incarcerated in Ontario in 1959, is the context on which the plot is built, though, of course, it is a fictionalized version of what happened, and the story contains so much complexity-the mystery that unfolds regarding the crime is only a part of the whole work. But, because the crime involved the sexual assault and murder of a young girl the de...more
This one took a while to read, obviously due to the length, but also because I was dreading what I knew was coming. It was one of those books that's just so sad...It makes me wonder how many secrets people carry with them and how the smallest lie can change everything. Also, I like her writing style, the way she switches perspectives, and the look into a life of an air force family.

"If you move around all your life, you can't find where you come from on a map. All those places where you lived ar...more
I am a fan of a good plot, and I don't think I've ever read one so poetically written, so perfectly timed or so wonderfully crafted as the one "The Way the Crow Flies" presents its readers. Unlike other reviewers who complained about the length of the book or the "pace" of the first 100 pages, I chewed on each word, savoring each paragraph as I would if I were eating a delectable meal. And, like the last bite of a tasty dessert, I sighed as I turned the last page and loosened my belt, feeling fu...more
Loved the first part, thought the second part was totally out of whack with the first section, not a great ending, kind of disappointing, actually.
I would give this book an extra star if I could.
Mike Smith
[Warning: this is a long review, but this complex book merits it.]

This is a long, thoughtful, and multi-layered novel. It was recommended to me as a good depiction of life growing up on Canadian military bases, as I did. And it is. It centres around 8-year-old Madeleine McCarthy, who's on her fourth move in 1962, and her father Jack McCarthy, a Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) officer. The early part of the story is about how the McCarthys, including Madeleine's Acadian mother Mimi and her older...more
This was a was very sad and at times disturbing story of Madeleine, a young girl that is sexually abused by a teacher in the early 1960's. Her father is an officer in the Canadian Air Force, and is involved in some cold war espionage that he can not divulge to his family. Her mother is a French Canadian with old fashioned depression era sensibilities. Her brother suffers from the burden of many young men, trying to win the approval of his father. They befriend a German family, that they later fi...more
"The birds saw the murder. Down below in the new grass, the tiny white bell-heads of the lily of the valley. It was a sunny day. Twig-crackling, early spring stirrings, spring soil smell. April. A stream through the nearby woods, so refreshing to the ear - it would be dry by the end of summer, but for now it rippled through the shade. High in the branches of an elm, that is where the birds were, perched among the many buds set to pleat like fresh hankies."

From the first sentence, the author ha
Carolyn Gerk
The Way the Crow Flies is not, in my opinion, a 'murder mystery, spy thriller' as is printed on the back of the novel. Yes, there is a murder, a mystery and cold war spy drama, but the most memorable moments, and the majority of the novel, is made up of a coming of age tale and a reflection on morality and lost innocence.
The novel begins with a taste of 'the murder'. Then proceeds to set the scene for a hundred and fifty pages, with no inkling of any murder to come, I kind of forgot what the bo...more
Nate's Bookgroup

This book was way too long and I think the editor knew it. The very first page is the description of a scene in which a murder is foretold. The next 350 pages of the book is the meandering build up to the murder scene. Ann-Marie MacDonald leads the reader through rooms involving child molestation, international spydom, elementary school quarrels, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and Nazi refugees. And written like this, I admit it sounds interesting. But all of those topics a...more
Sarah B.
Jul 23, 2012 Sarah B. rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: Someone looking for a great summer novel
Recommended to Sarah by: Jordan
Shelves: my-collection
I had chosen another novel to bring with me on my 10-day vacation this year, but disappointingly I was done with it by the end of the flight to Calgary (admittedly having skipped 50 pages in the middle). I asked my friend in Calgary for a loaner, telling her I was looking for something she could recommend, preferably Canadian since it's harder to come by Canadian novels at home. She handed me this one, saying it is like a mystery novel but "sad, but really good" which turns out to be a perfect d...more
WOW. This book started a little slowly for me - in fact I once started it and put it down, so I had to start it all over again.

But I was pretty quickly sucked into the story and the time period. The cold war. The race to space. The Cuban Missile crisis. Life on a military base for a highly intelligent and irrepressible pre-teen girl during this very poignant time period. I could see, smell, feel, and taste the sights and sounds of this book, so well crafted is it.

The characters are so thoroughly...more
Aug 30, 2007 Kieran rated it 3 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Anyone interested in a Cold-War mystery with a Feminist Twist
Overall, I have to say I enjoyed this novel. I read this 800+ page tome by Canadian author and playwright Ann-Marie MacDonald in about a week of a vacation in Mexico. The mystery was engrossing and she crafted an intricate page-turner of a story. The parallel themes of the hypocritical political maneuvers of the US and Canada after WWII and the hypocrisy of 1950s suburban life were interesting and, at times, very realistic. She covered a number of historical events that are not often discussed a...more
From my Summer Reading List blog post (May, 2012)
Ann-Marie McDonald – The Way the Crow Flies: By the time I finished this book, I could hardly believe that Ann-Marie McDonald wasn’t one of the most famous and popular writers on the planet. This book is truly a masterpiece in the way that it captures a critical moment in history (the Cuban missile crisis from a Canadian perspective) through the eyes of a witty, naive observer, eight-year-old Madeleine, whose own secrets echo those of her militar...more
So, so weighty. At critical junctures the experience is like bathing in astringent. Only, the astringent seeps in and soaks one's soul.

MacDonald's first work, Fall on Your Knees, is a remarkable feat and remains one of my favorite six or seven novels of all time. This isn't quite that, but it remains one of the thirty or forty most significant books I've ever read. It is difficult to read, more so than that first book---not in the sense that Finnegan's Wake is difficult, say, or the Gilgamesh,...more
Good reviews of this book: It was slow start, BUT...

No. A truly good book is good from the first word to the last word. Having to slog through 100 pages in order to get to the good part is nonsense. The first three chapters of this book (which is all I managed to get through) was like reading a Canadian history textbook. Canadian history being the most boring history in the entire world. Love my country to pieces...more
This is a book that you can't stop reading but you don't want to read because then it will be finished.
Genius writer, amazing talent, probably one of the best if not the best book I've ever read.
I picked this up at Costco and was 100 or so pages into it when I took it out to the garbage. I was expecting a murder mystery set during the cold war. What I found was a slow starting book written from each individual characters perspective. (I actually liked the different voices.) That turned into some sick storey of an 8 year old child and a teacher who got his students to participate in sex acts. You knew something fishy was going on and then POW a paragraph later you have a visual image in...more
For almost 600 pages, the voice is absolutely perfect—as perfect as I had hoped it would be after seeing the back of the little girl’s head (braids flying in the wind) in the cover photo. Unfortunately, the adult Madeleine is not as relatable, and certain events at the end are somewhat difficult to believe (frustrating because the first 600 pages are so very flawless). Nonetheless, this book is award worthy and unforgettable.
And I found myself running to the computer when I was done to learn mo...more
An extraordinary novel. MacDonald brings the early sixties to life with vivid detail. THe characters so well-crafted that you can construct their faces, voices, and shapes as well as any loved one in real life and imagine with clarity how they inhabit their world. The story, so original in plot, is devastating to the reader. You want so much to step in and share what you know to save these characters from such heartache and destruction. A powerful, loving, ingenious novel.
So good. The middle was a wee bit slow, but damn, when things get rolling, they roll! I felt pretty much every emotion reading this. I was so angry I could scream at some parts, so sad I wanted to cry (ok, I cried a little), frustrated, I laughed and fell in love with the characters. They're not unflawed and their actions carry serious repercussions, but they're so real and 3 dimensional. I really enjoyed this book, thanks Jen!
This is a beautifully written, but emotionally challenging book. The author has a real gift for bringing to life characters, time, and place. Her protagonists are impressively complex and the plot is very compelling--- my only complaint is the novel's dark heart --and that is just a personal bias for more upbeat tales.
Perhaps because I am almost exactly the same age as the narrator of this wonderfully THICK fascinating novel, I was absolutely riveted by The Way the Crow Flies. Partly because I do remember the Cuban missile crisis and partly because I lived in Ontario for 20 years and thus know a little bit about the Stephen Truscott case and mostly because it is a wonderfully well-written novel populated with fully formed likeable (and dislikeable) characters - I absolutely loved this novel. I cried three tim...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Historical Fiction At It's Best 12 65 Sep 03, 2013 03:33PM  
Around the World ...: Suzanne recommends: The Way the Crow Flies 4 23 Oct 01, 2011 09:56PM  
  • Kit's Law
  • The Piano Man's Daughter
  • The Colony of Unrequited Dreams
  • The Stone Carvers
  • All That Matters
  • Deafening
  • Indian Horse
  • Random Passage
  • River of the Brokenhearted
  • The Cure For Death By Lightning
  • Late Nights on Air
  • Clara Callan
  • The Island Walkers
  • Kiss of the Fur Queen
  • No Great Mischief
  • River Thieves
  • Stanley Park
  • A Good House
Ann-Marie MacDonald is a Canadian playwright, novelist, actor and broadcast journalist who lives in Toronto, Ontario. The daughter of a member of Canada's military, she was born at an air force base near Baden-Baden, West Germany.

MacDonald won the Commonwealth Writers Prize for her first novel, Fall on Your Knees, which was also named to Oprah Winfrey's Book Club.

She received the Governor General'...more
More about Ann-Marie MacDonald...
Fall on Your Knees Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) Belle Moral: A Natural History The Arab's Mouth Padněte na kolena

Share This Book

“There are some stories you can't hear enough. They are the same every time you hear them. But you are not. That's one reliable way of understanding time.” 22 likes
“Afterwards, in bed with a book, the spell of television feels remote compared to the journey into the page. To be in a book. To slip into the crease where two pages meet, to live in the place where your eyes alight upon the words to ignite a world of smoke and peril, colour and serene delight. That is a journey no one can end with the change of a channel. Enduring magic.” 11 likes
More quotes…