Book Review: Crossroads
“The first time Chris buried a part of herself by her son’s roadside cross, it was an accident”
Grief addicts unite! This book should come with a free therapy session, or at the very least a box of tissues. What a heavy read. I could feel the sorrow and pain coming off the pages as I read, and after finishing it I was completely wrecked.
SUMMARY: When Chris’s son dies in a tragic car crash, her world is devastated. The walls of grief close in on Chris’s life until, one day, a small cut on her finger changes everything. A drop of blood falls from Chris’s hand onto her son’s roadside memorial and, later that night, Chris thinks she sees his ghost outside her window. Only, is it really her son’s ghost, or is it something else—something evil? Soon Chris is playing a dangerous game with forces beyond her control in a bid to see her son, Trey, alive once again.
I’ve always said that horror involving children became much more horrifying once I had kids of my own, and this story is certainly no exception. As a parent I can’t imagine going through what happens to Chris. The moments of brief interaction with her dead son, the agonizing when he disappears again – all of it hit me hard. Chris goes to some intense lengths in the book, but at the same time I can understand her reasoning for the tough decisions that she makes (decisions that grow increasingly grim as the story progresses).
The writing is excellent, tone and mood both handled with deft precision. The story begins with a consistently wistful/forlorn tone, before devolving into a mix of fearful desperation and calculated resolve. And all the while the grief (that’s the keyword for this review) is palpable. It’s in the power of the storytelling that from the very first unknowing sacrifice Chris makes you know exactly where this book is headed, but you also can’t look away at the same time. I will say there’s a dark ambiguity to the final act of the book, a wonderful building of dread, and a twist that left me cold fear I still can’t shake.
I loved the stripped down nature of the book, in that there are only a few characters and essentially two locations. I also liked the format of the plot, with its back and forth rotation between the place of Trey’s death and and Chris’s house. Every time Chris goes to the location of the accident you’re anticipating with grim fascination what she’s going to do, and every time she returns home you hold your breath to see if it worked. This is not a book of jump scares and over the top gore (although there are some very graphic scenes), but rather one of subtle horror and mounting dread.
My only complaint, small as it is, involves the secondary character Dan. I appreciate how he allows himself to be a selfless refuge for Chris’s varying temperament, but I couldn’t help getting frustrated at his enabling tenancies (especially when he fully sees the road she’s on). He’s certainly an interesting character, just one that I wanted more action from.
Overall this is an incredible novella, and one of my favorite reads of the year so far! It’s certainly a different kind of horror, but I’m a big fan of stories that focus on the human emotions and relationships (think Haunting of Hill House or Hereditary). Go check it out!
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 💫
If you want to learn more about Laurel Hightower and her work then check out her website (https://laurelhightower.com/) or follow her on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/laurelhightower/) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/HightowerLaurel).