Crow Lake

by Mary Lawson

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How does guilt in Crow Lake affect the children's relationships, choices after their parents' death, and their adult lives?

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Guilt is a burden that lays heavily on all four children in the Morrison family. The one who’s life plan is the most disrupted in the immediate aftermath is Luke, who decides to give up his college scholarship and get a job in order for all four children to be...

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able to stay together and to allow his younger brother, Matt, to pursue his education.

In the long term, guilt has a major impact on Kate Morrison’s life. She gets to go to university, study zoology, and live the life that she believes should have been Matt’s. This ongoing residual guilt that she feels has a huge impact on her relationship with Matt, as well as on the romantic relationship that she gets into with her partner, Daniel. It is only years later, when Katie goes back home for Matt’s son’s eighteenth birthday party that this situation resolves itself. Matt’s wife, Marie, confronts Katie and helps her to understand that the choices Matt had made earlier in life were the right ones for him and for the whole family.

On the topic of guilt stakes, the guilt felt by Luke should not be understated. At the time of his parents’ fatal accident, Luke had just been accepted to teacher’s college, and it was the decision that he should have a new suitcase that had sent his parents to the shops in the first place. On their way back from this shopping trip, they were hit and killed by a truck with failed brakes.

I would argue that Bo, who was just at toddler at the time of this accident, suffered from the least feelings of guilt among the siblings.

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Following the death of their parents, Matt, Luke, Kate, and Bo's life plans are up in the air. Initially, their aunt proposes that Matt work on the family farm, Luke go to college with the remainder of the family's savings, and Bo and Kate live with an aunt and uncle in another city. Luke and the other children reject this plan, in part because Luke refuses to go to college while Matt stays home, suggesting a sense of guilt at the prospect of having opportunities his brother is denied.

The children face hard times but get through them together. Eventually Kate goes to college and becomes a successful zoologist while Matt stays home and eventually suffers an accident.

Kate is clearly racked by guilt, and it nearly ruins her relationship with Matt and with her partner Daniel. Eventually, Matt's partner Marie confronts her, saying that the only person who feels regret about how things played out is Kate.

This suggests a lesson, that Luke's guilt dissipated because he made an intentional decision to stay home from college while Kate's guilt stayed with her because she took advantage of an opportunity her brothers turned down and felt conflicted about this. The book doesn't suggest that this was a bad decision, necessarily, but it's clearly one that Kate had not fully made peace with. Marie's confrontation also suggests that Kate's feelings of pity and guilt about Matt's accident are unhelpful. Matt had made peace with his life and was content, and Kate's guilt was not rooted in Matt actually being wronged, but in her own projections onto Matt's life.

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