In Scotland, there is apparently a saying “away the Crow Road” It meant dying, being dead. “Aye, he’s away the crow road,” meant “He’s dead.” The crow is such a heavily laden symbol in many cultures, and often symbolizes death. This book is all about death. And sex. And cars.
It was the day my grandmother exploded. I sat in the crematorium listening to my Uncle Hamish quietly snoring in harmony to Bach’s Mass in B Minor, and I reflected that it always seemed to be death that drew me back to Gallanach.
There is also a local road named Crow Road, and it figures, if not prominently, at least conspicuously, in the story. It is narrated in the first person by young Prentice McHoan as he navigates his last year at college, trying to come to terms with his various preoccupations: death, drink, sex, God, illegal substances, and whatever happened to Uncle Rory (who disappeared a decade earlier). Uncle Rory’s disappearance is a thread woven throughout the story, and as life unfolds, and events happen, it slowly becomes a murder mystery, with Prentice being the terribly inept detective.
It is filled with lovely, quirky characters, and situations that are funny, yet believable. His father is struck by lightning while climbing a steeple in the local church, his grandmother died from falling through the celestial windows of their home as she was cleaning them, his aunt died while a passenger in a car her husband was driving too fast, and there was one more. I forget. It was Four Funerals and a Wedding. He receives a substantial bequest from one of those who was away the Crow Road, and says
… suddenly I was, if not quite within range of the mountains of Rich, certainly well into the foothills of Comfortable.
Lovely writing style, good storyline, enough unknowns to keep you interested, and some great quotes:
While dancing with Aunt Ilsa at a wedding:
Aunt Ilsa — even larger than I remembered her, and dressed in something which looked like a cross between a Persian rug and a multi-occupancy poncho – moved with the determined grace of an elephant, and a curious stiffness that made the experience a little like dancing with a garden shed.
At the funeral of his grandmother:
My Aunt Antonia — a ball of pink-rinse hair above the bulk of her black coat, like candy floss stuck upon a hearse.
The family lawyer:
Mr. Blawke was dressed somewhere in the high nines, sporting a dark grey double-breasted suit over a memorable purple waistcoat that took its inspiration from what looked like Mandelbrot but might more charitably have been Paisley. A glittering gold fob watch the size of a small frying pan was anchored in the shallows of one waistcoat pocket by a bulk-carrier grade chain.
Mr. Blawke always reminded me of a heron; I’m not sure why. Something to do with a sense of rapacious stillness perhaps, and also the aura of one who knows that time is on his side. I thought he had looked oddly comfortable int he presence of the undertakers.
All in all, a fine read. One of those that when you are done reading, you say, ‘Gee, that was good.’