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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Crow Lake, by Mary Larson, 2002, * * * *

Crow Lake is that rare find, a novel so quietly assured and emotionally pitch perfect that you know from the opening page that this is an experience in which to lose yourself. Kate Morrison narrates the tale in flashback mode, starting with the fatal car accident that leaves seven-year-old Kate; her toddler sister, Bo; 19-year-old Luke; and 17-year-old Matt to fend for themselves. At first they are divided up among relatives, but the plan changes when Luke gives up his college scholarship to get a job and keep the family together. They struggle against the grinding rural poverty of Crow Lake and Luke and Matt conduct a fierce battle of wills until a terrible tragedy at a neighbor’s house changes the course of all their lives.  Kate is now a 26-year-old woman reflecting back on her anguished childhood from the seemingly safe vantage point of worldly success as a professor of invertebrate biology. She is educated, has escaped the rural impoverishment and isolation of her childhood , and she is making her way by her wits. However, with all her apparent advantages, Kate is anything but free as the past has a stranglehold on her so life-choking that it has left her almost unable to feel. Her backward reflections are an attempt to probe the course of her life to determine just exactly where she lost herself. In this universal drama of love, loss, misunderstanding, and resentment Lawson ratchets up the tension continually overturning expectations right to the very end

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