Crossroads Book Review
by Hope Madden
Grief is such a provocative subject for horror. It’s a topic ill-suited to other genres because there—in an uplifting love story or very special drama—the tale is rarely really about the person who’s grieving. Those stories are usually more interested in the people around the grief-stricken whose goal is to alter the situation—end the perfectly reasonable process of suffering that accompanies a terrible loss. Rush a happy ending.
Essentially, they no longer want to deal with someone else’s pain. Horror is different in that way. It’s very comfortable with pain.
Laurel Hightower’s Crossroads introduces you to those other people, too—the father, who’s begun to move on; the grandmother, who can’t stand letting her daughter have the attention. But because of the point of view character in this spooky novella, you’re never more than a whisper away from the desperate pain of a mother willing to make rash choices to end her grief.
Chris stops by the site of her teenage son Trey’s fatal car accident every day after work. She’s been doing this for two years, almost to the date, when she cuts her hand on the wooden cross that marks the spot. Her blood soaks into the ground there at the crossroads, and things will never be the same for Chris again.
Hightower never wallows or dips into the maudlin as she shadows a woman whose life has ceased to exist outside the rituals that keep her son alive for her. The device introduces us to a character who’s simultaneously rational and a bit crazy, a necessary component for the supernatural tale the author conjures.
Congratulations are due to a writer who can create an atmosphere where you can believe not only the supernatural events, but the behavior of the central character, and Hightower has achieved both. We’re in it with Chris, we understand her thought processes and we ache for her loss.
Crossroads is a tale about grief and about parenthood, about what we do and do not learn from our own parents, and how entities outside ourselves read and manipulate us. It explores a personality type primed for sacrifice. Part of what make the novella so tough is that Chris feels incredibly familiar, so deeply human.
Hightower knows how to work your nerves and deliver a gut punch. She lulls you and then delivers a powerful emotional blow. You’ll be thinking about this one for a while.