CROSSING LIFE LINES
GENRE: Contemporary women’s fiction, chicklit, romantic comedy
Ever woken up and thought about what might have been, or what still could?
Cady Stokes is 29, and suddenly thrust into a new life, one she never expected, but was the old life really good for her?
Georgina Elliott is steadfastly single, career minded to the end, till she meets Ben on a work assignment.
Richard is dealing with a major life change too; can he make amends for his past?
Once some life lines are crossed, they cannot be undone…and would you want to if you could?
This is Rachel Dove’s debut novel, dealing with life, love, loss and all the moments in-between.
Richard is a man who needs to make amends: to his wife who has no idea how to grieve, to his parents who thought he walked on water but instead walked in his father’s footsteps, to paramours, and probably a host of others for whom crimes and misdemeanors of the terminally caddish and egregiously self-centered make for slender menu options in the hereafter.
But that’s getting ahead of the story. Cady is the bereaved with a penchant for inappropriate, clueless behavior. She’s a woman on the back side of dewy youth, lacking a measure of social skills expected in her time and place. Her bestie, Georgina, is her rock, her ennabler and a fashion maven who’s made it along a demanding career path.
It’s not hard to forgive the self-indulgence born of loss, particularly when it wears a veneer of hand-me-downs and cast-off emotions. Help arrives from odd sources. From Luke who shows up with flyers and leaves an impression, to the in-laws who prove not to be the ogres heartbreak suggested, nor even Marcus who seems sincere but with a side of smarmy and making hay while the widow mourns that we can see, even if Cady can’t.
It’s a rather large cast to juggle, but each player has a role, and most offer surprises of one sort or another.
And then there’s Richard. Richard in a white room, charged with a chance to set things straight. This is the reader’s opportunity to suspend disbelief, set aside conventional wisdom about ghosts and ghostly abilities, and watch events unfold … or grow as the case may be. And Richard’s my major stumbling block of all the characters. Conventional wisdom would have him on an express elevator down, not being given a chance to rectify wrongs with little nudges and apparitions. And then there’s the apparent blessing of the gatekeeper who evidences an untoward amount of sympathy for someone who never valued anything but himself.
Each of the minor characters engages in a sort of one-act-play, with their own conflicts and pairings and resolutions that either strain credulity or dovetail nicely with the main story arc: Cady coming to terms with her new life and all the unanticipated changes (above and beyond widowhood), as well as learning how to build a solid relationship from the ground up.
There were issues with point-of-view, and a corollary of too many voices all sounding the same. The timeline was head-scratching (especially in the later portions of the story), both for Cady’s circumstances and Georgina’s. They devolved into sketches in search of a narrative arc, leaving the denouement feeling a bit rushed and detached. I’ve already mentioned Robert. The set piece with Marcus needed better treatment. There were editorial glitches scattered throughout.
On the plus side, Cady was a supremely sympathetic character, Luke was … well, you’ll want someone like him to meet your marriage-aged daughter. Georgina was the rock, then she was plain annoying and finally she came to terms with her own path in life. In short, there are lots of mini-happy-endings, along with some comeuppances and a backhanded plea for forgiveness (depending on how big a person you are).
The story would have been stronger had it focused exclusively on Cady’s journey, instead of cross-hatching her emotional breakdown and recovery with so many outliers that subtracted from the main character’s emotional growth back to normalcy.
The story is British, it uses UK idioms, spelling and locales perhaps unfamiliar to American audiences. As they say: deal with it.
There are some humorous moments, a few tear-jerker episodes, and an overall feeling of pleasant surprise. Despite the drawbacks, it’s a “nice” read. It’s a feel-good story in the end, and in this day and age, there’s absolutely nothing wrong having a smile on your face when you reach “The End”.
Rounding up from 3.5 stars to FOUR STARS. Because a smile is worth that.