I’m seeing Crow everywhere right now; on Goodreads, Twitter, Facebook, and blogs. And I can see why readers are falling in love with this book.
I come from a long line of lunatics and criminals. Crazies on one side of the family tree, crooks on the other, although the odd crazy has a touch of crook, and vice versa. I am the weary, bitter fruit – or perhaps the last nut – of this rotten old hybrid, with its twisted roots sunk deep in dysfunctional soil.
Stacey “Crow” Fortune leaves her life in Toronto and comes home to Cape Breton “to go down in a blaze of impulsive, outrageous, scandalicious, truth-bombing glory” after she finds out she has three inoperable brain tumours.
Inoperable brain tumours sound depressing, right? But it’s too full of unconventional characters and good times to be depressing. And Crow herself is full of humour about her situation. She’s taking it on with everything she’s got. In Amy Spurway’s words, “For Cape Bretoners, laughing in spite of hardship is part of who we are.”
So, what is there to laugh about?
When Crow comes home, she imagines she’s come home to die, and to be taken care of by her mother. But life is not finished with Crow. She meets up with her old friends, enemies and flames, who she still refers to as Willy the Gimp, Duke the Puke and Becky Chickenshit (to name a few). It’s like being back in high school whether she likes it or not: her mother cooks her endless amounts of her favourite broccoli casserole; she hooks up with Willy the Gimp, her old high school “friend with benefits”, and amply partakes of his pot; and she’s reunited with her friend Char who is a new mom, a bit off her rocker, and who manages to convince Crow (along with a bottle of wine) to shave off all her hair.
After much preening, I surmise that shaving my head was a terrible idea. One minute, I catch a glimpse of myself in the door of the microwave, with a little bit of soft light behind me and my chin tilted just so, and, ‘Ahhh, there she is. 1990s Sinead O’Connor.’ Then I go take a piss, and as I’m reaching for the toilet paper I glance up into the mirror, ‘Jesus Christ! What’s Gollum doing in my mother’s bathroom?’
The friendless, homeless, hairless end-of-life trajectory taking shape here is not the swan song I expected.
And that’s just a drop in the bucket. You think things can’t get much worse for Crow, and then they do. There is surprise after surprise in this book, and I can’t tell you about any of them! Suffice it to say that there is never a dull moment. I mean, it’s Cape Breton after all. Settle in with some tea and squares, get your head out of your arse, and enjoy the ride.
If I were inclined to believe that the almighty Universe is preoccupied with sending middle-aged, lower middle-class white ladies divine cosmic messages about what they should or should not be doing with their existence, I might interpret the events of late as a series of none too subtle signs that my plans to live and die on this island was, in fact, a bad one.
Crow is full of elements readers are looking for in a good read: wit, adventure, twists, and a lot of heart.
“And then there’s the bigger, more grandiose questions about will happen when I’m gone,” Crow considers. “Where am I going? Anywhere? Nowhere? Somewhere? Somewhere good? Will there be tea and squares and laughing and crying and swearing there, because if there isn’t, well then I don’t want to go.”
Words to live by…
Don’t be so contrary all your life, take a day off.
Some days, I feel like dying. But not today. Today, there’s shit to do.
Review at Pickle Me This: “The adjective “brave” gets thrown around all too often in regards to literature, but I’m going to pitch it here, because it’s right for a variety of reasons. First of all, a book about death—and mental illness, and disability, and abortion, and spousal abuse, and class, and poverty—and the narrative takes no shortcuts or shies away from the hard stuff. I kept waiting for the part where it veered off course or fell into the saccharine, but that point never happened. Crow delighted me and amazed me the further I read, with its freshness, its daring, its refusal to conform (and the projectile vomiting).”
Review at The Star: “Angry, petty, disillusioned, sharp-tongued, battered and bruised by the years, prone to snap decisions and judgments, and yet not a little scared of dying at 40, she’s a complex and contradictory figure whose narrating tones relay very human traits — fallibility and indomitability, blindness and insight — via homespun, salty language.”
Interview with Amy Spurway at The Signal, in which she discusses how she started writing fiction, how growing up in Cape Breton has influenced her writing, and what she hopes readers will get out of the book: “My goal in writing this book is making people laugh and making people cry — ideally, both at the same time. If people walk away having had a good chuckle, and maybe a good sniffle, I’m deeply satisfied.”
Thank you to Goose Lane Editions for sending me a copy of this book!