The Way the Crow Flies


720 pages
ISBN 0-676-97408-2
DDC C813'.54




Reviewed by Sarah Robertson

Sarah Robertson is the editor of the Canadian Book Review Annual.


Ann-Marie MacDonald’s follow-up novel to the bestselling and
critically acclaimed Fall on Your Knees opens in 1962 when the McCarthy
family, headed by RCAF officer Jack, moves from Germany to an air force
base in Centralia, Ontario.

The McCarthys appear to be the ideal baby-boom clan, but the
picture-perfect surface is an illusion. Against the backdrop of the
Cuban missile crisis and the arms/space race, Jack becomes embroiled in
a morally dubious military intelligence scheme involving a former Nazi
scientist. His exuberant eight-year-old daughter, Madeleine, and a
handful of her classmates become the victims of sexual abuse at the
hands of a teacher. The stories of Jack and Madeleine intersect in
horrific fashion when one of the child victims is murdered. The
respective secrets kept by father and daughter aid in the wrongful
conviction of a teenage boy whose story echoes the real-life tragedy of
Steven Truscott.

The final section of the novel is set in the 1980s. Madeleine, now 32,
has achieved success as a professional comedian, but her demons have
finally caught up with her. Forced into psychotherapy by the emotional
repercussions of the murder and her childhood abuse, she makes a
discovery that recasts the long-ago murder in a shocking new light.

This sprawling, ambitious tale is slow to get off the ground. Before
the murder (which doesn’t occur until around the midpoint of the
novel), the narrative bogs down in descriptions of Jack’s military
career and period details (ranging from pop references to Cold War
absurdities like duck and cover) that at times seem forced. But there is
nothing forced about MacDonald’s depiction of sexual abuse and its
consequences, or about her portrayal of Madeleine, a richly authentic
character who embodies the wonder and humour of childhood and, just as
emphatically, its confusions and fears.


MacDonald, Ann-Marie., “The Way the Crow Flies,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 19, 2024,