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The Way The Crow Flies    by Ann-Marie MacDonald order for
Way The Crow Flies
by Ann-Marie MacDonald
Order:  USA  Can
Perennial, 2004 (2003)
Hardcover, Softcover, Paperback, Audio, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Ann-Marie MacDonald's first novel, Fall On Your Knees, was a New York Times Bestseller. This second is sure to join its sibling. The Way The Crow Flies grabs the reader from the first page and keeps the action churning all through the succeeding eight hundred and ten.

It's the early sixties and eight year-old Madeleine's rich imagination carries her along as her father, an officer in the Canadian Air Force, is posted to a station near the Canadian/American border. A child disappears, a young boy is charged with her murder, and Madeleine's father is involved but can't testify. It's a complex plot that unrolls simply, most of the story being related by Madeleine.

The writing is tight and beautifully crafted. The characters are drawn with a fine brush and further the story smoothly. I especially liked Madeleine with her vivid fantasies that carried her through her day. The child molester is very easy to dislike, as are several of the young girls who are introduced. Madeleine's father is torn between duty to his country and a parent's duty to do the right thing. Her mother, an Acadian called Mimi, bears the life of an air force wife with stoicism, performing what she considers her duties with optimism, and dispensing love to her family in giant doses.

I did have trouble at times with a number of the characters whose names all started with the letter 'M'. Maybe I'm the only reader who has a problem with this, but when the action moves quickly, it's sometimes difficult to distinguish between the people involved - Madeleine, Marjorie, Mimi, Mike. Trivial, no doubt, but annoying. The climax is a complete shock. I never saw it coming. If you're one of those people who read the last few pages of a book, first, don't do it. Don't ruin a good story for yourself.

This novel is placed in the early sixties. For a lovely dose of intensively researched nostalgia, you can't go wrong with The Way The Crow Flies.

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