Not long ago, I was lucky enough to receive Banks' Stone Mouth from Net Galley and really liked both the writing and the story. So I decided to check out one of Banks' previous works and decided on The Crow Road. Excellent choice! I could hardly put it down.
This novel has an opening line that will probably be forever identified with it: "It was the day my grandmother exploded."
Prentice McHoan has returned from his studies in Glasgow to the small Scottish town of Gallenach for his grandmother's funeral. He introduces us, briefly, to the main characters as he looks around and notes the friends and family members in attendance.
As full of witty repartee as Stone Mouth, The Crow Road tells a different story of a creative and unusual family with the love and conflict that most families have to some degree. The story shifts back and forth in time in a stream-of-consciousness style, as one event or situation reminds Prentice of another in the past.
Touching moments, adolescent angst, mystery, and a growing understanding of events past and present lead Prentice to some revelations about himself and his family...and about the disappearance of his Uncle Rory, the traveler, author, and magician.
I loved everything about this book. One of my favorite character is Ken, Prentice's father, and the flashbacks to his relationship with his younger brother Rory (the young Rory's confiding his limited knowledge about masturbation to his older brother is so funny), to Ken's first meeting with Prentice's mother (the most unusual introduction imaginable), to his imaginative story-telling to the young Prentice and his cousins--wonderful. The dialogue is witty, smart, and always sounds pitch-perfect.
The characters are lovable and pig-headed, eccentric and normal all at the same time. So as the story develops through Prentice's unrequited love for Verity Walker, his jealousy of his older brother, his friendship with Ashley Watts, it comes as somewhat of a surprise that Rory's disappearance begins to fascinate Prentice and lead to some serious questions. When you are completely involved with the family/friend relationships, there comes the possibility of a darker secret waiting to be discovered.
I imagine this one will remain a favorite for years to come, and yes, I'll be checking out more of Iain Banks, but not for a while. I'm afraid they won't be able to measure up.
In Banks' own words, the novel is about “about Death, Sex, Faith, cars, Scotland, and drink.” But it is so much more!
Fiction. Contemporary Lit. 1992/2008. 501 pages.