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Crow Lake

3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  10,531 ratings  ·  1,203 reviews
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 lands
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Paperback, 324 pages
Published January 13th 2003 by Dial Press Trade Paperback (first published January 1st 2002)
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6th out of 64 books — 212 voters
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9th out of 72 books — 122 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Carol
This was a simply told and captivating family drama with a northern Ontario setting. I’ve never been there but the author’s observations of that area in Canada established such a powerful sense of place that the story came alive for me. I grew up in the high plains of eastern Colorado (Kent Haruf “territory”) and there were parts of this novel that echo my own rural background – especially her description of life for farm families.

The story details the struggles of four siblings who were orphane
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Wanda
I feel like I’ve just been hit by a truck—this book blindsided me and despite the impact, I adore it. This may be because it ticks so many of my personal boxes, but I’ve been wandering the house since I finished it, ploughing my way through laundry, dinner, dishes, trying desperately to find my footing again, while I’m processing.

Within the first few pages of the book, Katherine’s parents are killed in a car accident, sending the four children on a confusing, agonizing struggle to put their live
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Jane Siviski
It's a strange thing that I came across this book. I found it wedged into the back of a shelf downstairs. It seems I read it at the perfect time. It came to me in the midst of serious, physical grief, the kind where your body is taken over by sadness and is simply a vessel for your shaking and sobbing and wailing. Oh the wailing. You will wail. And not in the Wayne's World sense. Its the kind of thing that you can't let anyone else listen to, because what the wailing is is the pain leaving your ...more
Tea Jovanović
Već sam pisala o lepoti kanadske književnosti... Ovo je jedna od kanadskih autorki čije knjige obavezno treba pročitati... I koje se dugo pamte... A svaka njena nova knjiga s čežnjom i nestrpljenjem se iščekuje... Jedva čekam da je neko od vas pročita i da čujem vaše utiske... :)
BrokenTune
"I remember reading somewhere a theory to the effect that each member of a family has a role – ‘the clever one’, ‘the pretty one’, ‘the selfish one ’. Once you’ve been established in the role for a while you’re stuck with it – no matter what you do people will still see you as whatever-it-was – but in the early stages, according to the theory, you have some choice as to what your role will be."

This was one of the books on my "Canada" reading list. Most titles on this list are books and authors I
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Terry
My roommate means well but boy does she have bland taste in "literature" and yes I say "literature" with as much sarcasm as possible. Believe me I turn down more offerings of hers than I read, but I just feel obligated to choke one or two down every once in a while.

I wanted to like it, I did. I just didn't. It just didn't feel "new" to me. And I didn't find the writing style especially evocative. The narrator of the story speaks and thinks like a 50+-year-old, and I kept shaking my head to clea
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Amanda
Book #26 of 2009
Back to the serious side of things I guess... I've been chewing on this book for a couple of days now, never being really invested in it to make a big to finishing it, certainly not devouring it like the last five books or so. I'm not even really sure how I feel about it. Its almost anticlimatic in a way. The whole book builds up to this supposedly huge catastrophe, which isn't really a catastrophe at all, but a decision moving life one way instead of another. But the supposed ca
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Carol

This story is about much more than relationships. It is about life. It is about organisms that live in ponds and how they cling to life. It is about family. It is about carrying on the dreams and hopes of previous generations. It is about education and how important it is and how, sometimes, you miss life as it is happening. It is a lyrical and wonderfully magical story that ensnares you in its telling. It is dreamy and haunting. It is one of the better books I've read this year ~~ it is somethi
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Kate
One way to tell if I have enjoyed a book is as I near the end I purposely slow my reading down. I don't want my relationship with the characters to end I want to savor the final knowing.....

Such was the case with Crow lake. Kate is an academic from a rural Northern Canadian small town. At 27 she is falling in love with Daniel,a fellow academic who has less complicated background. For her to come to terms with this, she needs to gain insight into why it is not easy to let love in. Her past conta
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Jeannie
Nov 18, 2014 Jeannie rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Jeannie by: Angela
Shelves: 2014
I really enjoyed this book. The story moved along slowly but never failed to keep my attention. I hated to see it end. I look forward to reading more by this writer. Highly recommend.
Snotchocheez
3.5 stars

Spare and somber (but not overly so), Mary Lawson's Crow Lake is evocative of Carol Shields' Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Stone Diaries but (to its credit) isn't quite as overladen with flowery prose (or twee cutesiness). Both novels are set in rural Canada (Crow Lake in the northern-most inhabited reaches of Ontario, Stone Diaries in stone quarry-filled central Manitoba); both feature a female narrator whistfully looking back on their hardscrabble rural pasts. In the right melancho
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brent
This novel is very much like consuming several empty calories: so much to read, not a lot to comprehend. This novel went on, and on, and on. I found a lot of the information given about Katie's past overly descriptive. Far too much irrelevant detail! I also found the book to be quite repetitive, I don't know how many times it was mentioned that the neighbors were dropping off meals. I don't know how many uncomfortable dinner table conversations there were. I don't know how many chapters were ded ...more
Sonya
This book has been sitting on my shelf, unread, for many years. I wish I'd left it there. While this is Mary Lawson's first book, my sympathy is limited. She offers no depth to her characters. You develop no bonds with anyone in the book. It has a poorly assembled storyline which is supposed to develop into an emotional epiphany for the flat protagonist "Kate"; however, by the end of the book, Kate has learned almost nothing about herself and, what she has "learned", was not picked up by her aft ...more
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
This is very cleanly written, so it's a fast read. Just a good simple story about 4 children who lose their parents in a car accident and the struggles they go through to stay together as a family. The narrator looks back on how the choices each of them made altered their own lives as well as the lives of their siblings.
I've been reading a lot of emotionally wrenching stuff lately, so this was a nice calm read for a change!
I liked her second novel (The Other Side of the Bridge) a little better
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Teresa
a fabulous read, beautifully written with vivid characters. It's a short, easy read but I found myself very moved by the representation of the Morrison family. This novel is never overly sentimental or gushing - it's one which will stay with me for a long time and whose characters I will remember fondly - something which doesn't happen that often to me!

Since there isn't the option to give 4.5, I've given it 5, only because I'm probably too harsh at times....
Mari Anne
This was the story of a family turned upside down after the parents are killed in a crash. The writer beautifully evokes the emotions of the children left behind and the starkness of their northern Canada surroundings. However, like the Canadian wilderness this story left me a bit cold. The protagonist Katy wasn't very likable and was a bit stilted. The plot didn't seem to go much of anywhere and the ending was abrupt and unsatisfying.
Lisa
First novels are tough. Many haven't mastered the art of "show, don't tell" in their story-telling. Mary Lawson does a beautiful job of getting you to feel the emotions of the characters and their varying reactions to the tragedy that occurs near the beginning of the book. This is especially hard, since the setting is a small farming community where you are not supposed to show your emotions. You are supposed to be stoic in face of anything and everything, although stoicism can easily lead to fe ...more
Poiema
Apr 27, 2015 Poiema rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Wendell Berry, Mitford book fans
Recommended to Poiema by: http://ukrakovianki.blogspot.com/
I couldn't put this book down until I finished @ 3:30 a.m. It's been a while since I have done that but I'd have to say Crow Lake was worth it.

The narrator, Kate, is a 27 year old biologist with a very successful career. But that career does not fully satisfy her because she has loose ends to tidy up with her siblings. It's something that she would rather postpone indefinitely, but circumstances force her to sort through the emotional baggage. Her story builds to a satisfactory conclusion and sh
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Maggie Stiefvater
It took me a month to read Crow Lake from beginning to end. Not because it's a long book, but because it's a slow book. It's a story of two girls raised by their older brothers after their parents die in a car crash. It portrays, poignantly and humorously, the close relationship between the siblings -- absolutely beautiful. The plot will not change the world, but by the end of the book, I felt like I'd met four people and I was sad to leave them. I'd love to accomplish that in my writing.



***wond
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☮Karen
I am in awe of the ability of Mary Lawson to have created such a beautiful narrative in her debut. The story is so real and relatable, I am guilty of placing myself and my life into so many of the family scenes as they were constructed. The plot slowly gains momentum, and reaches a very satisfying ending. Gripping, insightful, and heartfelt. I highly recommend this one.
Shelby *wants some flying monkeys*
Good story. I liked Katie the main character of the story and adored her family members. Especially Bo. I could picture that child exactly! Touching but a short book. I actually wanted more.
Pamela
A caterpillar, within a cocoon over a set period of time, transforms into a butterfly. But it is the struggle to emerge which allows it to thrive, transformed. Figuratively, humans who have experienced tragedies are like caterpillars; except that the cocoon period varies from individual to individual, as does the degree of struggle required to resurrect anew from the experience. In that sense, tragedy can be a beautiful miraculous thing.

Mary Lawson, in her novel “Crow Lake,” not only weaves a b
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Eden Arielle
I picked up this book with low expectations, but here is a novel so beautiful and intricate in its examination of humanity that I couldn't help but love it. In addition to its calm, steady depiction of family, it is also surprisingly fast-paced and thrilling and I devoured it in a span of two days, fully engrossed in the lives of the characters.
The story follows Kate, a now-college professor looking back on her childhood in northern Ontario. Affected deeply by tragedy at a young age, the story m
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Judy
January 5, 2012
4.5 This is a beautiful, rich novel marbled with huge swaths of sadness, set in a town in the open spaces of northern Ontario. It is so simple, and yet so richly layered, that I have trouble describing it: it's about a family, as well as some other families in their small town. There is a traumatic event - really a number of them. The families go on. The narrator, a member of the central family, is looking back at these events, which are interwoven with scenes from the present. My
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Rachel (TheShadesofOrange)
4.5 Stars - Such a Beautiful Story

There are two reasons I loved this novel: the characters & the setting.

First, the characters were fleshed out and fully developed. Complex and lovable, the Morrison children felt like real people. I don't usually get attached to characters in novel, but I found myself caring deeply for each of the main characters. (I adored Bo!)

Second, the setting was incredibly well drawn. Lawson writes such an authentic experience of living in a northern Canadian communit
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Kelly
I chose this book for our June book club. It was a “Today Show” book choice. Told from the perspective of 27 year old Kate, the story is one of sadness (her parents died in a car crash 20 years earlier), forgiveness, guilt and growth. I enjoyed the story and especially the flaws that Kate has as a character and person. As a reader it was rewarding to witness her evolution as a character throughout the narrative. Our book club had some good discussion and most (though not all) liked the book. Mos ...more
Jeanette
This author's work I have read quite out of order. But I liked this one much better than "Road Ends". It's 4.5 star level in its characterizations all around. Yes, my favorite of this Northern Ontario locale of hers that I have read. We know 3 or 4 families well at Crow Lake this time, but we know the narrator's family the most deeply. Smart people, and some like Matt are still their own worst enemies in the anxiety their smarts seem to inflame about their future.

Kate is not my favorite class o
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Sharon Huether
Crow Lake..by Mary Lawson...Kate grew up on a small farm near Toronto. Her boyfriend Daniel, never experienced community, just lived here and there, even abroad a year at a time. He urged Kate to tell him about her past and her life growing up. That is what this book is about. Joys and struggles of four children, losing both their parents in an auto accident, when they were young. The author did a great job making Kate's memory so vivid.
Peter
Crow Lake is a simply told story that encompasses self-sufficiency, sacrifice and survival. Like, Camilla Gibb’s Sweetness in the Belly, Mary Lawson’s novel is a joy to read and confirms that Canadian women novelists and short-story writers are first-rank anywhere on this planet….I hesitate to mention this back cover blurb of Crow Lake, but….”A Book of the Year, as chosen by the Globe 100, The New York Times and the Washington Post”….
Jeanne
This is a beautifully written book about a family and how it survives, overcoming tragedy, living with sadness and heartache, and battling poverty and misunderstanding. In particular it is Kate’s story and her relationship with her brother Luke, sister Bo, and her very close bond with her brilliant brother and mentor, Matt. I loved this book and wondered as I read it, how the author could take us inside the mind of another person so wonderfully—it’s almost as though we are Kate as we read this. ...more
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rating 1 3 Jun 15, 2015 10:13AM  
Almost finished Crow Lake, by Mary Lawson 19 63 Nov 15, 2014 06:37PM  
Crow Lake by Mary Lawson 1 18 Jun 06, 2012 06:00AM  
Kate and daniel's relationship 2 53 Dec 08, 2008 04:45AM  
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Mary Lawson (born 1946) is a Canadian novelist.

Born in southwestern Ontario, she spent her childhood in Blackwell, Ontario (located between Sarnia and Brights Grove) and is a distant relative of L. M. Montgomery, author of Anne of Green Gables.

Lawson moved to England after graduating from McGill University with a psychology degree in 1968. She also married in Ontario, has two grown up sons and now
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The Other Side of the Bridge Road Ends The Essential Mary Lawson 2-Book Bundle: Crow Lake; The Other Side of the Bridge

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“You see the suffering of children all the time nowadays. Wars and famines are played out before us in our living rooms, and almost every week there are pictures of children who have been through unimaginable loss and horror. Mostly they look very calm. You see them looking into the camera, directly at the lens, and knowing what they have been through you expect to see terror or grief in their eyes, yet so often there’s no visible emotion at all. They look so blank it would be easy to imagine that they weren’t feeling much.
And though I do not for a moment equate what I went through with the suffering of those children, I do remember feeling as they look. I remember Matt talking to me--- others as well, but mostly Matt--- and I remember the enormous effort required even to hear what he said. I was so swamped by unmanageable emotions that I couldn’t feel a thing. It was like being at the bottom of the sea.”
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“We are all bumbling along,side by side, week in, week out, our paths similar in some ways and different in others, all apparently running parallel. But parallel lines never meet.” 6 likes
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