The novel is a fiction, narrated by 26 year old Kate Morrison, and set in Crow Lake, a rural community in northern Ontario. The story weaves in and out of Kate's life, beginning with 7 year old Kate, her toddler sister Bo, and two brothers Luke and Matt who are orphaned when their parents die in a car accident. At first, the plan is to divide them up among their relatives, but 19-year old Luke intervenes and gives up his scholarship to college and decides to take a job and keep the family together. The family struggles against all odds, but with the assistance of the community manage to survive. Matt's plans for a post-secondary education are also shattered as he becomes involved with the neighbour’s daughter Maria Pyem. So Kate becomes the scholar in the family. She becomes a zoologist at a Toronto college and almost 20 years after her parents’ death, she has not come to terms with her past and is forced to confront it when she receives and invitation to her nephew's 18th birthday.
I thought this was a great story. The land and the climate of the north remind me of my own hometown in northern Sweden. You really get drawn into the story line and I can see the characters of Kate and Matt lying down on their stomachs looking into the ponds. I did not enjoy the adult Kate; she is embarrassed and ashamed of her family. She's focused on "what they've lost out on" by wasting their intelligence and leading a simple small town life, rather than realizing that they are content with the choices they've made.