Book Review: 'The Crow Road,' By Iain M. Banks | Next week the people of Scotland vote on whether to become independent from the U.K. Author Marie Mutsuki Mockett recommends a book that illuminates the Scottish psyche, Iain Banks' The Crow Road.
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As Independence Vote Approaches, A Spirited Novel About The Scottish Experience

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As Independence Vote Approaches, A Spirited Novel About The Scottish Experience

As Independence Vote Approaches, A Spirited Novel About The Scottish Experience

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Next week, the people of Scotland will vote on whether to leave the United Kingdom. And for our series, "This Week's Must Read," author Marie Mutsuki Mockett recommends a novel that she says helped her understand the Scottish psyche.

MARIE MUTSUKI MOCKETT: In my 20s, I was living in London and dating a Scotsman. A friend pulled me aside. Read "The Crow Road" by Iain Banks, he told me. It's the story of our childhood. Read this and you'll understand us. "The Crow Road" is a dark and witty coming-of-age novel. It's set in the early '90s in Scotland. Nothing is going particularly well for the hero, Prentice McHoan. He's failing grad school. He's in love with a girl named Verity who doesn't love him back.

He's home in the Highlands for his grandmother's funeral when her body explodes in the crematorium. Someone forgot to take out her pacemaker. And on top of it all, it's the mystery of Prentice's beloved, Bohemian and possibly dead Uncle Rory who disappeared 8 years ago on a motorcycle. See, "The Crow Road" is a reference to death.

If someone is away the Crow Road, it means he's not coming back. And Banks explores the many ways that death will haunt us. But it's the ending of the book that really sticks with me. I won't give away the mystery of Uncle Rory. But I will point out that in American fiction, it's often possible your true love is someone you don't yet know. Think Princess Leia or Rhett Butler.

In this novel, as so many Scots know, true love awaits you at home. Prentice ultimately realizes that he is in love not with the glamorous Verity, but with his childhood friend, Ash. It was a sticking point for my husband that I wasn't Scottish, but we did eventually get married. Occasionally, people ask him how he plans to vote on the referendum. He's an ex-pat, and he can't vote at all. But if he could, he would vote no. Still, he says stoically, if it happens, it's the will of the people. And we love our country.

SIEGEL: The book is "The Crow Road" by Iain Bank. It was recommended by Marie Mutsuki Mockett. Her next book is called "Where The Dead Pause And The Japanese Say Goodbye."

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