Crow Lake

Crow Lake - Mary Lawson

"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 I had never heard of before setting myself a challenge to read up on the place I'm going to visit this summer. So, I knew nothing of Crow Lake before I started reading. Unfortunately, I also read parts of the Ferguson brothers' How to be a Canadian at the same time - and the Ferguson's acerbic description of what makes the quintessential Canadian novel seemed to very much apply to Crow Lake.

 

"Understatement was the rule in our house. Emotions, even positive ones, were kept firmly under control. It was the Eleventh Commandment, carved on its very own tablet of stone and presented specifically to those of Presbyterian persuasion: Thou Shalt Not Emote."

 

Don't get me wrong, Crow Lake has got a great premise and interesting characters but the dysfunction and hardship described seemed rather prefabricated. 

I also found it hard to relate to Kate, the main character, who is raised by her brothers after their parents die in an accident. 

But part of me is convinced that it is hard to relate to Kate for anyone because she does not relate to anyone in the book. In fact, one of the issues dealt with in the book is the emotional detachment which people create for themselves as protection against loss.

 

Another aspect of this detachment, and one which also did not help to endear Kate to me, was her determination to not just shut out her family, but also to use the acquisition of knowledge as an escape mechanism.

 

All in all, it was an interesting book, but the aloofness (in generous terms) of the main character made it sometimes hard work to want to work with the story and see the characters open up about their lives. 

 

"Great Grandmother Morrison, I accept that the fault is largely mine, but I do hold you partly to blame. It is you, with your love of learning, who set the standard against which I have judged everyone around me, all of my life. 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."