Crow Lake by Mary Lawson: A Novel Report.

Essay by NeverEndingLightHigh School, 12th gradeA, May 2009

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“Great grandmother Morrison and we all grew up… being aware of her gaze… the only time those fierce old eyes showed any signs of softening was when Matt walked into the room… She was thinking, that one. He’s the one.” (Lawson, 5) A small farming community in rural Ontario is the setting for the story of a family who is forced to make tough decisions after the sudden death of their parents. The novel is truly captivating, even though the Mary Lawson’s style is realistic, in that it is always the main character narrating and she speaks like any other regular person. She keeps the plot rooted be the picture of a great grandmother that the siblings never met to reiterate the importance education had on the characters, and why, for some, giving it up was a major sacrifice.

To begin, the story is told from the point of view of a mature Kate Morrison telling the story of her childhood.

Her family had lived in rural Ontario. She had three siblings, Luke, Matt and Bo. After their parents died in a car crash, Luke decided not to go to college so that the family would not have to be split up and so that Matt could go to college instead. Matt was always the smartest and most like great grandmother Morrison in comparison to the others. It is a struggle, but the family makes it through the year, but just before matt is about to leave for college, he discovers that his girlfriend is pregnant. So, instead of going to college he marries her, giving Kate an opportunity to go to university. Kate finds it hard to accept that her intelligent brother Matt was not able to realize his dream and she was. When Kate, now twenty-five must go to Matt’s son’s eighteenth birthday, she does not know how to explain her feelings. Overall, the book is about Kate trying to rationalize her feelings of guilt and how Matt’s life is in her mind, a tragedy.

To go further in depth, examine the main characters. Luke, the oldest brother, gives up his life to take care of his family, and never does marry, just takes care of the youngest sister, Bo, who was one when the parents died. She is a tough child to take care of, very persistent and proves to be the boys’ biggest challenge in taking care of the family. Matt, is a year younger than Luke. He always had a passion for biology and education, much like their great grandmother, who was adamant that even though she needed her sons for farm work, they would finish elementary school, a radical idea at that time. Although the characters never met her, her picture was in their parents room and they could feel her presence. Finally there was Kate, who was eight when her parents died and always looked up to Matt. She became distant when she left for university as she felt she took Matt’s place.

Through examining the novel, it is clear there is one recurring theme, sibling sacrifice. Luke gives up his chance at college for Matt, and he stops when his employers daughter makes advances towards him, so that his work is not affected. The commitment to their causes is clear when four months from his final exams Matt says he is quitting school to work. Luke gets angry and the boys get into a fight, as Matt does not want look to sacrifice anything for him and Luke does not want to give up the family. Luke wins and Matt stays and takes his exams. Matt eventually trades his place for college to become a farmer and father, and to enable Kate to have enough money to go to university. It is clear through Kate’s narration that she always felt guilty, and thought it a tragedy that Matt did not further his education, as he inspired Kate to get into Biology and was set to be their grandmothers reflection. Kate says, “I was always convinced that she disapproved of us all, with one exception” that exception was Matt, Kate’s role model and inspiration. Kate always thought Matt was miserable and the novel is a journey through her past to try and to reason her feelings of guilt and confirm that Matt’s life is indeed a tragedy.

When Kate finally sees him again at the end of the novel, she still cannot talk about her work. It is not until Marie tells her how much Matt worries she thinks his life is a failure. Kate is outraged and when she goes to discuss it with her boyfriend, he tells her that from what he has seen, Matt is happy and successful. As much as Kate argues, she finally sees that it is true that both Matt and Luke gave up everything for her and her sister, but they do not regret it and have found different paths for themselves.

Overall, Crow Lake is easy to read, easy to connect with as it has a very real perspective and clearly demonstrates how Kate’s experiences as a child have affected all aspects of her life. She chose to study biology because of Matt and her relationship with Matt was damaged by her feelings of guilt. While keeping the story moving, the theme of sacrifice is prevailing, as it is intertwined with the plot and rooted by the constant great grandmother who had such hopes for education. The theme is fully developed through Kate’s acceptance of her brother’s new lives but leaves the reader to wonder what great grandmother Morrison would have thought and if she still disapproved of Kate and the other siblings.

Works CitedLawson, Mary. Crow Lake. Seal Books, 2002.