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Crow Lake

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  17,157 ratings  ·  1,898 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
Paperback, 324 pages
Published January 13th 2003 by Dial Press Trade Paperback (first published 2002)
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Average rating 3.89  · 
Rating details
 ·  17,157 ratings  ·  1,898 reviews

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B the BookAddict
Feb 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommended to B the BookAddict by: Heather L via Recommendation Swap
Very basically, Crow Lake is the story of four orphaned children in a remote farming community. Kate, the third child, narrates the story twenty years later, looking back on their childhood from her now removed life in Toronto. Her relationship with her older brother Matt was paramount in her childhood and his passion for nature helped nurture her love of the ecology; in turn, leading to her profession as a zoologist. Through now adult eyes, Kate sees the struggles, heartbreak and hardship in th ...more
Jul 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: public-library
'. . . just one more dropped stitch in a family tapestry full of holes.'

This is a story of strong familial bonds forged early in life, then eroding from deep-seated resentments, guilt, and an ingrained reluctance to speak the truth and set things straight. Smiling on the outside, hurting on the inside, even simple eye contact too uncomfortable to maintain.

This author has a knack for writing characters so vivid that you would recognize any one of them if he or she came knocking at your front doo
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
May 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful family saga that is filled with heart and endurance. Set mostly in the early days of settling the northern area of Ontario, a small village and its people come to life with vividness and love.

Thank you to AngelaM for first introducing me to this author. Please read her excellent review as it is perfect – and exactly the kind of writing that will appeal to most of our book friends.
Betsy Robinson
May 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I feel such a commonality with this book—Mary Lawson's style, the movements, the issues, the dialogue that is perfect pitch and as natural as breathing—that it almost renders me speechless. It's a story about children raising children. About no grownups. About being propelled into adult responsibility as a child and the delusions of survivor's guilt. There's a short Q&A with Lawson ( where she qualifies the story as complete fiction. I believe her. The commonal ...more
Lisa  (not getting friends updates) Vegan
I really liked this book. I love Kate’s voice, as a child and as an adult. Every character is sufficiently developed that I felt as though I knew them well and that I would immediately recognize them if I ever met any of them. I thought the family relationships and the psychology of each character were presented in an authentic and believable way. The writing is lovely too. No complaints about any of the above.

There was constant foreshadowing in this book. There was also more than one major even
Erin *Proud Book Hoarder*
"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."

Beautifully written and emotionally moving, Crow Lake is told through the point of view of a young woman who has lived through a certain type of family hell and survived it. Sort-of. Four children, different ages with different temperaments, are forced into bonds and responsibility tha
Jul 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 20, 2016 rated it liked it
The Morrison children have been left orphans in the farming community of Crow Lake which is part of the wild terrain in Ontario, causing them to become a project of sorts for the townspeople. Meanwhile a nearby family the Pyes, are having plenty of tragedy themselves. The eldest two Morrison boys have worked on the Pye farm on occasion throughout the years and it's no surprise that the two families are drawn together in grief. This is Mary Lawson's debut novel(2002) She has written a book with r ...more
Tara Rock
Nov 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had just finished reading a bloody thriller and began my first book by Mary Lawson - a novel completely at the other end of the spectrum. Her style and voice was such that I felt that she was sitting next to me on the couch telling the story. The novel takes place in a small Northern Ontario farming community and revolves around the future lives of four children whose parents were killed in an accident. I thoroughly enjoyed this and will be reading more of Mary Lawson.
Dec 27, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, canada
"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
Nov 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
May 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing

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
Bonnie Brody
Jan 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book is a gem for lovers of literary fiction. Mary Lawson captures the emotions and narratives of one family in Northern Ontario and puts them onto the page and into the hearts of readers. Told from the perspective of Kate, we are privy to the gifts, challenges, and tragedies that the Morrisons encounter, endure and surmount.

As the novel opens, the four children - Luke, Matt, Kate and Bo - are depicted as living a comfortable life with their middle class parents in a remote area of Canada.
‘Crow Lake’ is a very satisfying, slowly evolving story about the impact of tragedy, circumstance, and misguided expectations on family dynamics. In one household, four orphaned children - the Morrisons - ages 19, 17, 7 and 1, live in a remote Canadian community, doing the best they can to stay together and survive as a nuclear family. They don’t want to be separated. In a neighboring household, the Pye children try to endure the multi-generational legacy of abuse by the father. They just want t ...more
Mar 07, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canadian-fiction
Told in first person, it's as if Mary Lawson has written her autobiography. What a grasp she has for portraying the sacrifice, hurt and enduring pain that can latch onto one's family. That's the crux of this one, tragedy turned resilience turned comfort and peace.

This was the second novel I've read by her and I stand now even more firm that she possesses an innate knack for writing a family story. She softly rolls through pieces of the protagonist's young life (Kate) starting as a 7 year old. I
Mar 27, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: other-fiction
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
Maggie Stiefvater
Jun 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: recommended
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.

Aug 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
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.
Jul 25, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
I’ve meant to read more by Lawson ever since I reviewed her latest book, Road Ends, for Nudge in May 2015. All three of her novels draw on the same fictional setting: Struan, Ontario. Lawson grew up in a similar Canadian farming community before moving to England in the late 1960s. After an invitation arrives for her nephew’s birthday party, narrator Kate Morrison looks 20 years into the past to remember the climactic events of the year that she was seven. When she and her siblings were suddenly ...more
Apr 30, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
I read this book several months ago and am still having a hard time reviewing this properly. To say I loved this book would be a huge understatement. It was such a powerful story and one that stays with you for a long time to come.

This is the story of Kate Morrison and her tragic childhood, after being orphaned quite young. I found myself quite emotional throughout the book… not because the subject matter was sad, but because Mary Lawson made me feel everything. The story was told in such a sub
Cindy Rollins
May 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
Beautifully written novel of a family of four children who must cope with the death of their parents. The love in this story is redeeming and the words evocative. I especially liked how the author weaved the theme of what it means to be educated throughout the whole book but bringing home a surprise conclusion at the end. I am quite sure she is familiary with Dorothy Sayers and her thematic storytelling on relationships and education.
Shelby *trains 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.
Jeanette (Again)
Jan 19, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: all-fiction, canada
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
Mary Lins
Apr 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: complete
I needed a book for a long trip that I KNEW I would love and be engrossed in, so I chose to re-read "Crow Lake" for the third time! What a great writer! ...more
Mar 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
In an old cedar chest, that miraculously maintains it’s aroma, is an even older quilt given to me decades ago in a bitter cold Colorado winter. I rarely take it out having moved to a more temperate climate zone. This book reminded me of the quiet comfort I used to draw from that fabric. It created and sustained a cozy sense of peacefulness that even on completion lingers still. This is a beautifully written story of a girl and her beloved family who facing a cataclysmic disaster find a way throu ...more
Oct 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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....
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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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“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.”
“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.” 9 likes
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