Actress and author Ann-Marie MacDonald visited UR to read excerpts from her newest book, “The Way the Crow Flies,” Monday as part of the Neilly Series.
Approximately 50 people came to Hoyt Auditorium to hear her read, most of whom were not students.
Dean of River Campus Libraries Ron Dow began the event and introduced Annette Weld, who received her doctoral degree in English from UR and is currently the Treasurer of the Friends of Rush Rhees Library.
Weld spoke briefly about the book’s plot and introduced MacDonald. MacDonald grew up in Centralia, Canada on an Air Force base where her father worked. She currently lives in Toronto.
“The Way the Crow Flies,” her second book, is a loose autobiography that spans MacDonald’s life from her earliest memories to her recent years.
Her first novel, “Fall on Your Knees,” has had over 2 million copies published, won the Orange Prize and the Commonwealth Prize and was selected in 2002 for the Oprah Book club. MacDonald has also written plays, which have attracted numerous awards.
MacDonald read excerpts from various points of the novel for about an hour.
“How fortunate can we be to hear from a novelist who’s also an actress?” Weld said after the reading. “She does the voices! I read her book and I couldn’t wait to hear her do her Bugs Bunny – Bugs Bunny runs through the whole book.”
Amy Norkus and Laura Marshall drove four and a half hours from Pittsfield, Mass. to hear MacDonald read. “Anne-Marie MacDonald is my personal hero,” Marshall said. “She is so amazingly talented and we saw that in her talk tonight. Her acting training, her wit and voice”- all of that showed through in her talk.”
“I thought it was great that she read pieces instead of just talking about the book because it really changed the way I look at the book,” Marshall said. “To hear her reading those words was really useful for my own interpretation.”
Norkus echoed Marshall’s thoughts. “It was wonderful,” she said. “I always wanted to hear her read from her book and we didn’t get a chance to with ‘Fall on Your Knees.'”
Andrea Weinstein, Program and Development Manager of River Campus Libraries plays a major role in choosing guests to speak for the Neilly Series. “It was brilliant,” she said of the event. “We hadn’t tried this before – this is a book tour, so Harper Collins sent her to us directly. I think it’s a good way for us to be able to get people we wouldn’t normally be able to afford or might not be able to get on their schedule.”
“She’s very theatrical and very charismatic and I think the audience really enjoyed it,” Weinstein added.
Bill Morgan, Professor Emeritus of UR Medical School, attended the reading with his wife.””My wife and I are very interested in Canadian Literature and we read her first book when it came out,” he said. “I thought her reading shows that she is an actress – she really performed and read with a great deal of expression. The book shows a great deal of sensitivity, description and metaphor.”
Dow enjoyed the talk as well. “I like to hear books read out loud. To have the author read it standing in front of you just brings out the craft and the tone,” he said. “It’s a very leisurely book and she read it in a very leisurely way.”
Following MacDonald’s reading, she offered to answer questions from the audience.
“As an adult writer, how difficult is it to write from the perspective of an eight-year-old child?” an audience member asked.
“It’s a major commitment,” MacDonald responded. “If you really undertake a project of memory, it’s amazing what comes back. And I don’t mean stuff that happened, I mean point of view.”
“You look very young to me,” MacDonald said to the gentleman who asked the question,””but how old would you have looked to me when I was eight? How did the world taste and feel and smell? And that’s a real journey.”
“My worst fear,” MacDonald continued,n”was that I would create a charming little innocent scamp.”
Don Barthel, who lives nearby, asked MacDonald to read another excerpt. She enthusiastically agreed. “She’s wonderful. She’s not afraid to feel emotion and write about it,” Barthel said.
Following the question and answer session, MacDonald offered to sign books –“provided that I have written them,” she joked.
For undergraduates, MacDonald offered a piece of advice. “It’s very important to get through school with your passions intact.”
Yunis can be reached at email@example.com.