First sentence: The birds saw the murder.
Reflections: Madeleine McCarthy is 8 years old in 1962, when her family moves from a Royal Canadian Air Force station in Germany to their next posting, in Centralia, Ontario, Canada. At the very beginning of this book, the author foreshadows the murder of a young child. But first, the reader is immersed in all the details of life on an air force base. From a child’s point of view, there are new friends to be made, and a new school to settle into. But there’s also a constant feeling of transience, since friends come and go at the military’s discretion: If you move around all your life, you can’t find where you come from on a map. All those places where you lived are just that: places. You don’t come from any of them; you come from a series of events.
As Madeleine and her brother Mike adjust to the new community, so do her parents, Mimi and Jack. Mimi and Jack are deeply in love, and their partnership has supported them through many military transitions. A former colleague of Jack’s, now retired from the military, calls upon him to perform some intelligence work that Jack believes will further the space race. He struggles with the secrecy required of these duties, while at the same time being fascinated by the opportunity to battle the threat of communism.
Life in Centralia is typical of the 1960s, much like “Leave it to Beaver.” Then the murder occurs, changing Centralia forever. MacDonald has so masterfully developed all the characters, and involved the reader in all facets of their lives, such that it is hard to imagine who would have killed a child. Madeleine is profoundly affected by the tragedy, but as with many early childhood experiences, she represses the events surrounding the murder and its aftermath. The story concludes with Madeleine, now in her 30s, coming to terms with the events in her past, and making amends where possible.
The Way the Crow Flies
is a compelling story with a rich cast of characters. I liked this even more than MacDonald’s first book, Fall on Your Knees
, which I read
earlier this year. ( )