Crow Lake


295 pages
ISBN 0-676-97479-1
DDC C813'.6





Reviewed by Susan Merskey

Susan Merskey is freelance writer in London, Ontario.


Luke, Matt, Kate, and Bo Morrison are born in an Ontario faming
community so isolated that “the road led only south.” Life is hard,
but the family’s Eleventh Commandment, proclaimed by their
great-grandmother, is “Thou shalt not Emote.”

Luke is accepted at teachers’ college, but before he can enrol, his
parents are killed in a collision with a logging truck. He gives up his
place to stay at home and raise his younger sisters, Kate, age seven and
the narrator of the story, and Bo, still a baby. The second brother,
Matt, continues his high-school education, looking after his sisters
after school while Luke works.

The already strong bond between Matt and Kate becomes even stronger,
while his passionate interest in the natural world sparks an equal
passion in her. It is expected that Matt will become the first Morrison
to obtain a university degree, but a dramatic event changes this, and it
is Kate who leaves Crow Lake to earn a doctorate and a teaching

Working in the city, and a successful biologist in her own right, Kate
returns home with her partner, a microbiologist from an academic family,
to celebrate the 18th birthday of Matt’s son. Amid this clash of
cultures, she takes readers in and out of her troubled childhood
memories in an attempt to analyze her emotional life. But there are some
things, especially about Matt, that she can neither understand nor

The author ratchets up the tension throughout this universal drama of
family love and misunderstanding. Her personal knowledge and
understanding of the contrasts between rural and urban Canadian
lifestyles and expectations permeates every page. Readers of Crow Lake
will be left eagerly awaiting Mary Lawson’s next book.


Lawson, Mary., “Crow Lake,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed February 21, 2024,