Author: Laurel Hightower
Page Count: 110 pages
Rating: 5 / 5 ✨✨✨✨✨
One of my absolute favorite things about the horror genre is how wide the range is in potential subject matter, both in terms of overall theme as well as the emotional impact that the creator is trying to have on their audience. From blood-coated slashers with little real emotional connection (but a lot of gore-soaked fun!) to achingly sad ghost stories that make you hurt inside, there’s something for everyone in horror and that’s a very beautiful thing.
I love everything the genre has to offer, but if we’re being honest, I have to say that I’m partial to the stories that hit me hard right in the stomach. Stories about suffering, about pain, about grief: these are the ones that suck me in, and stick with me long after I’ve finished reading them. This is my second book by Laurel Hightower, and I can definitely say that she’s already solidified in my brain as an author who will hurt me terribly – and I love her for it.
In CROSSROADS, we meet Chris two years after the unexpected and accidental death of her son, a tragedy from which she’s still reeling. As a grieving mother, Chris copes with Trey’s loss by creating a routine of visiting the spot where he died, spending time feeling as close to him as she can with him gone, talking to him and telling him about each day’s events. Through an accidental injury, Chris stumbles upon something she can’t share with anyone else: a few drops of her blood on the ground, and suddenly she can actually talk to Trey again, for real, and even sometimes see him. But how long will just a few drops of her blood keep him there? And what would Chris have to give up to bring him back completely?
I’m going to warn you before you go into this one that it’s a heavy-hitter emotionally, and it may wreck you. The way the author portrays Chris, with all her strengths and flaws and grief and relatability, is incredible; she seems to almost leap off of the pages with everything that makes her such a compelling character. Her pain and desperation are palpable, and even if you’re not a mother (I’m not!), you’ll feel the heartbreaking impact of the story like a sledgehammer to the gut.
This is a story primarily about loss and sacrifice, yes. However, while Hightower’s storytelling abilities aren’t here to spare your feelings, that doesn’t mean that sad vibes are all you’ll find with this one. Along with Chris are a few other smaller characters – a love interest, an ex-husband, and the wife of said ex-husband – that are also fully realized to the point of effectively showcasing how many different kinds of relationships can coexist and be balanced beautifully in a well-rounded life, as well as what a healthy support network looks like.
Still, as many of us know, sometimes the people around you just aren’t always fully capable of helping a person deal with certain traumas or situations, and I think the truth at the heart of CROSSROADS is a large part of what makes it such a phenomenal book: it’s completely honest, even if that honesty is brutal, ugly, and painful.
CROSSROADS is in my Top 10 of 2020 for sure, and I can’t recommend it enough. If you’re looking to bawl your eyes out while reading your next favorite novella, definitely check this one out and thank me later (but I’m not responsible for the amount of tissues you’ll need to get through it!). Huge thanks to Off Limits Press for sending me an early release copy of this one to read & review!
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