Laurel Hightower’s novella, ‘Crossroads’ has tremendous power. It brings fresh meaning to the term nightmarish because everything in this novella feels real, even the things that rationally can’t be real and agency seems both imperative and impossible
The story takes place at a literal, metaphorical and emotional crossroads. Chris, the grieving mother of a teenage son who died two years ago, is perfectly aware that, while she believes she’s making rational choices, she might simply be delusional. She believes she has a chance to resurrect her son. She doesn’t know how any of it works or why it’s happening and she has no way of finding out. So, guided by the hope of saving her son and driven by a fear of losing him by failing to act, she sets out on a path of escalating sacrifice.
The surface narrative – what Chris chooses to do and what its consequences are – is gripping and so emotionally powerful that I was torn between needing to know the outcome and fearing that I would flinch at what I discovered. Chris not only becomes real but you can see that she has finally reached a point where, after years of grief and depression, her life is worth living. You can also see that her need for her son is driving on a path that could cost her everything. I became so invested in Chris that there were times when I just wanted to shout out – ‘Don’t Do This.’
What makes the novella outstanding is that, in addition to the tension of the surface narrative, we have a meta-narrative about motherhood and identity and sacrifice that is powerful in its own right and we have an alternate narrative that places Chris as a victim of something dark and supernatural.
I think Hightower’s achievement is that she doesn’t make us choose between these three narratives. She makes them all seem true, at least some of the time.
This isn’t an easy book to read. There’s too much pain in it for it to be a book I could consume in one session, even though the ebook is only ninety-six pages. Yet I kept coming back to it and it kept getting better.
I highly recommend this one to you.