Year of the Crow

The Year of the Crow, a novel by Barbara Stoner
Cover art: Thom Marrion
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Dave sez:

I couldn't put it down. Your writing style is very compelling. I wondered where all this political nonsense was heading and now I know. This morning in the park 4 crows landed near me as I walked. I said: "Jim, is that you? But they all went about their business; none responded.

Matt sez:

I don't see what's NOT to like about a story that has Harleys, hippies,
psychological warfare, a repressive right-wing government and magic all
encased in a wrapper of road trips and Grateful Dead.

And Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter sez:

Dived in one end of ‘Year of the Crow’ and came up gasping for breath on the other, savagely well entertained. Some remarkably true to life Grateful Dead literary concert footage, performed with affection and irrepoachable insider perspective, makes this book a candidate for the archives. My favorite Dead tale to date.

"This was her life, she decided. And if it hadn’t been a life she had chosen, it was now." YOTC, Ch. 30

"And yet no wind blew. Not a single tree swayed. The fire did not jump from cabin to forest. It seemed the entire world below the storm had stilled, waiting for it to take care of some personal business and pass on." YOTC, Ch. 29

"... it’s thunderstorm season. They roll up here in the mountains sometimes about mid-afternoon. Good ones. They don’t last long, but we don’t want to be the tallest things on the mountain when they do come through." YOTC, Ch. 28

"Sybil’s head banged hard against the window, bringing tears to her eyes. A cool wind blew through her hair. She rode on the back of a motorcycle. Confused, she looked around. Behind them, Sebastian rode a sleek, black bike. Ellie’s laughing face appeared over his shoulder, her arms twined around his waist. The sky that rose above the road behind them shone diamond-bright with stars. Sybil whipped her head back in terror, and gripped the shoulders of the man in front of her. Danny smiled back at her. She tried to scream, but her voice froze in her throat. Tears filled her eyes again, and she tried to blink them back. When she opened her eyes, the bike disappeared. The stars were gone." YOTC, Ch. 27

"Sybil closed her eyes as well. The outburst from Alice had reminded her of what she had left behind. It was also a forcible reminder of how things were once, and how they were not any more." YOTC, Ch. 26

"Something at the corner of her eye caught her attention. Lightning? “A storm is coming,” she heard herself say, and pointed out beyond the stage. Sure enough, far off in the distance, lightning played, making a mural of gray and black in the cloud cover." YOTC, Ch.25

"In Phillip’s world, everything always came to a bad end. Sybil wasn’t buying it. Half an hour ago, maybe. But not now. Not with the sun glancing off the paint job on the bus in front of them, unicorns frolicking across green meadows under blue skies, looking as if they could gallop right off the bus and up the hill with the rest of them. Not with the little puffs of dust rising from bare feet along the side of the road, the beat of the drums, the beat of the bikes, the smells of patchouli and sage and smoke. Sybil hopped off the bike, took her jacket off and draped it over the top of the sissy bar. Stepping into the dust of the road, she joined the dance." YOTC, Ch. 24

"Sybil held her breath. She was so tired, so hungry, her joints so stiff and frozen that she found it hard to move without a moan, but she managed to keep from making a sound. She wondered if the audio detectors could hear her stomach rumbling." YOTC, Ch. 23

“Jesus Christ in a bucket!” Sybil broke in. “I didn’t even think about food. Think we would have eaten worms?” YOTC, Ch. 22

"They bought take-out and a bottle of wine in town and spent one more night in a campground. Phillip sat cross-legged, staring into the fire much as Sybil had done the night before, quiet even for him. She wondered if memories of black wings were haunting him." YOTC, Ch. 21

“Yes,” Sybil told him. She felt weary beyond thought, but something told her it would be a while before she could rest tonight. “He’s still alive. We think he is, anyway. We’re going to need your help to get him back.” YOTC, Ch. 20

"The forest duff was deep and soft, so that their footsteps, even over dry needles, sounded as not much louder than a whisper. Sybil gnawed on her bread, wishing she had something to put on it, the butter from yesterday morning a fond remembrance." YOTC, Ch. 19

"The bike purred like a happy cat. Sybil leaned back against the sissy bar, bathing her face in sunlight, as they took the switchbacks down and down in the golden afternoon. An eagle rode the thermals above the cliff face to the south and, somewhere above her, Sybil heard a crow." YOTC, Ch. 18

“So that’s what the shooting was all about!" YOTC, Ch. 17

"The river passed beneath her, painted silver with moonlight. Silver too were the pine needles where they picked up light, chattering in the slight breeze, and the wet slabs of granite, which gleamed between the water and the woods." YOTC, Ch. 16

"I’m calling up the storm, a voice said inside of her, with a mad kind of joy. I’m calling up the storm, another voice echoed, with a kind of disbelieving wonder. I’m calling up the storm, a small real voice whispered, and she heard her fear in that voice. When the first cold drops of rain hit her face, the magic fell from her and she turned to run.
“Oh, no, little girl. Not that easy.” YOTC, Ch. 15

"Sybil stifled a scream, biting hard on her lower lip. As if in a dream, she stared at that knife, willing it not to be there. Then she lifted her gaze, past Brian’s terrified eyes, until she looked into the face of the man who knelt behind him." YOTC Ch. 14

“Yee haw!” T-Boy’s whoop showed his country roots. “The Dead are playing Red Rocks. We’re heading west.”
“No shit.” Phillip looked over at Danny. “When?”
“End of next week. Saturday. Figure I’ve got about enough time to ride out to Colorado and back before school starts. These bums are hot for it. Wanna ride along?” YOTC, Ch. 13

"Where in the bloody hell have you been? We thought you’d been kidnapped. The words she thought back at him had the scolding tone so hard to manage in a whisper.
And sold into white slavery, no doubt. I should be so lucky!" YOTC, Ch. 12

"What do you mean, a storm is coming? What kind of storm?"
The crow looked up as if to consult the sky. Sybil saw the picture again, the boiling clouds, the wind-blown trees, this time with a snake of lightning and a crack of thunder so loud she dropped the cigarette she had forgotten to smoke." YOTC, Ch. 11

"He opened the door, and was gone. In the cabin, Sybil and Brian heard a rush of wings, and looked at each other." YOTC, Ch. 10

"They had sludged in from the road through old snow, past black-limbed popples, leggings and mittens catching on last year’s prickly underbrush, because Phillip wanted to show her his favorite No.3 rapids. They heard it first, a gargling sound, as if a giant were chugging the river from a bottomless cup. When Phillip pointed, Sybil could see the spray through the trees, a mist that rose on the light breeze above her head. “We’ll run that this summer,” Phillip had announced, as if proposing a walk in the park. Sybil had nodded her head, willing at the moment to go along with almost any adventure he proposed just because it sounded like a wonderful thing to do." YOTC, Ch. 9

"Sebastian, she said. Open your eyes.
I ain’t opening my eyes. One thing I learned about heights. ‘Don’t look down.’
So, don’t look down. Look up. Look around. Remember what we used to say at the shows, when things seemed to be going wrong? ‘This day will not come again.’ And maybe this night will never come again. Open your eyes." YOTC, Ch. 8

"There’s nobody in that closet. If Teddy Summer had dropped in here, I sure as hell wouldn’t be stuffing him in some goddam closet! Here you are, and I’m not stuffing you in a closet, am I? And I don’t even like you!" YOTC, Ch. 7

“One little thing, grandma?” Brian asked her now. “One little thing doesn’t change the world.”
“Are you so sure?” Sybil arched a speculative eyebrow. “The butterfly’s wing…”
“Butterfly’s wings. Butterfly’s wings don’t cause hurricanes, grandma, no matter what people used to say. It’s a meaningless metaphor.”
“Meaningless, hmmm?” Sybil smiled ... YOTC, Ch. 6

"Sybil closed her eyes. Time hung suspended like limp Dali watches in the trees. A cloud of crows rose from the crowns of those trees. She shook her head. What kind of hallucination was this?" YOTC, Ch. 5

"They were quiet then, quiet in the protection of the huge tree, which seemed to wrap them in soft darkness, becoming for a while a place apart and out of the world." YOTC, Ch. 4

Robert Hunter also said, "
‘Year of the Crow’ is one of those nice golden reads whose major fault is that it doesn’t go on forever."

Coming sooner than I said it was last time.

"A few marigolds bloomed in uninspired red and gold, outlining a yard square patch of four or five marijuana plants, tiny things, hidden by the steps from street view and also from most of the sun for most of the day. They should have looked brave there, Sybil thought, struggling to survive in the face of starvation and illegality, but the more she looked at them, the more hopeless they seemed, like the very old or the terribly crippled, whose lights of life have gone out but who, nevertheless, continue to exist. Like us, Sybil thought. But tonight the thought didn’t fill her with despair. It was just how things were. “The world at large and we have gone our separate ways.” YOTC, Ch. 3

“Sybil loves the dark. But she’s quite batty, you know.” He leaned forward out of the shadows. “She says the only light that’s left is in the dark.” YOTC, Ch. 2

"...Once upon a time.” The laugh rose again. “That’s how all fairy stories start, you know. But did you know that all the fairy tales were true? Do you remember?” YOTC, Ch. 1

Robert Hunter says, "I loved The Year of the Crow!"

SYBIL SUMMER, 75, can still fly, which is lucky because it’s the only way she, her son TEDDY, grandson BRIAN, and her crippled friend SEBASTIAN are going to escape the Homelanders. The year is 2030. Frightened by a series of terrorist attacks, most Americans hide within walled communities, depending on an expanded Department of Homeland Security for safety. Now the “Homelanders” want Teddy for murder, and probably treason as well.
The narrative switches between 2030 and 1978, as Sybil remembers or retells the events of that earlier summer, a journey to a Grateful Dead show at Red Rocks, and tragedy on a mountainside in Colorado.