In the Shadow of Crows

Published Date: June 1, 2024


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Connected via the fictional town of St Anne’s, a community along Nova Scotia’s western shore, each story takes its title from the children’s rhyme Counting Crows.

One for sorrow, two for joy,

three for a message, four for a boy,

five for silver, six for gold,

seven for a secret never to be told.

Within each tale an individual (often from the same family, always from the same town) will note the number of crows in their midst and recall the poem as it relates to the prophecy and the story at hand. Between the last century and the current one, the characters (for the most part, women) walk a shifting landscape carved out by war, poverty, and patriarchal expectations. Beneath the gaze of a small town and these intelligent birds whose memories are unforgiving, we are as close as a heartbeat to the souls upon these pages.

Born in Nova Scotia, Mary Verna Feehan has lived, worked and studied throughout Canada, the United States and Ireland. Her writing, fed by place and the souls inhabiting them, speaks from the blue and pink collar world she hails from and navigates. Her work has appeared in North American and European journals. She lives with her family on Cape Breton Island. In the Shadow of Crows is her first collection of short stories.


“Poetic in its telling—M.V. Feehan’s stories weave through time with recurring characters in the varied moments of a life.These people who live in or are connected to the town of St. Anne’s experience hope and disappointment, small dreams and painful realities. Throughout the narrations a Greek chorus of crows foretell the fates that await the men and women whose lives are forever changing…. From a high school crush to the tragedy of a miscarriage to family ostracization, Feehan’s characters endure the burden of being alive, but they also live lives shot through with the joy of friendship, unexpected bureaucratic kindness and acts of tenderness.” Frank Macdonald, (A Forest for Callum and Smeltdog Man)

“A poignant view of lives passing with crows from a children’s rhyme poised at the margins of each story. Feehan has a deep and sensitive understanding of human nature and a relentless focus on each individual working his and her way through the maze.” Phyllis Barber, author of The Desert Between Us and The Desert Above

“Feehan successfully evokes nostalgia but more profoundly finds poignancy in each symbolic line, which is mirrored in the precision of her writing. The result is a mosaic that is at once dreamlike and realist. The struggles and moments of joy feel epic despite her remarkable concision.” Chris Benjamin, author of Boy with a Problem

Cover art:         ALEX COLVILLE, Seven Crows 1980

Acrylic on hardboard, Owens Art Gallery, Mount Allison University, Copyright A.C. Fine Art. Reproduced with permission


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