Crow Lake is the first novel by Mary Lawson. She wrote this book in her 50’s, reportedly taking many years to perfect it before it was published. She grew up in Blackwell, Ontario which is a neighbourhood in Sarnia. Although the novel is work of fiction, the author did share, in her notes at the end, that some of the characters were based on her family including her grandmother who did attach a book to her spinning wheel and her little sister who had been the inspiration for the youngest child in the story.
Crow Lake is a fictional, Northern farming community. The Morrison family is struck by tragedy when the parents were killed in a car accident leaving two teenage boys, a 7 year old girl and a toddler to cope with their loss. A well-meaning aunt visits with plans to separate the children with family in the East.
Luke, the oldest forgoes his plans for college to keep the little family together in Crow Lake, much to the disappointment of Aunt Annie. The family struggles yet has strong support from their community. Meals are shared, babysitting is offered and jobs are arranged to enable the family to manage.
The story is told by Kate, who had been 7 at the time of her parent’s death. She is now a professor studying pond surfaces and the effects of surfactants on pond life. She has avoided visiting her family, struggling to deal with her educational success while her brothers had sacrificed their education opportunities. She visits and is encouraged to come to terms with the fact that her siblings have have accepted the changed direction of their lives and found happiness.
Crow Lake is a relatively quick read and the reader can imagine the Northern geography that is described. It is a story of resilience, strength and commitment to keeping a family together despite a tragedy that could have split them apart. It is about community, home and family.