Edie finds the world around her increasingly difficult to comprehend. Words are no longer at her beck and call, old friends won’t mind their own business and workmen have appeared in the neighbouring fields, preparing to obliterate the landscape she has known all her life. Rattling around in an old farmhouse on the cliffs, she’s beginning to run out of excuses to stop do-gooders interfering when one day she finds an uninvited guest in the barn and is thrown back into the past.
Jonah has finally made it to England – where everything, he’s been told, will be better. But the journey was fraught with danger, and many of his fellow travellers didn’t make it. Sights firmly set on London, but unsure which way to turn, he is unprepared for what happens when he breaks into Edie’s barn.
Haunted by the prospect of being locked away and unable to trust anyone else, the elderly woman stubbornly battling dementia and the traumatised illegal immigrant find solace in an unlikely companionship that helps them make sense of their worlds even as they struggle to understand each other. Crossing Over is a delicately spun tale that celebrates compassion and considers the transcendent language of humanity.
Huge thanks to Will at Renard Press for providing me with a copy of Crossing Over in exchange for an honest review.
This book tackles some enormous themes, but it does so in an extremely intimate way. Its power comes from the fearlessness of the narration, which dives headfirst into the complex, fractured mental states of its two protagonists, Edie and Jonah. Their respective confusions are carefully rendered through Morgan’s disjointed, urgent prose and are also reflected in clever loops with chapter titles, incidents, misunderstandings – so that every situation we read about is kind of viewed through a double lens: the disorientated perspective of the character, and the reader’s own attempt to weave meaning out of the (intelligently presented and completely deliberate) chaos!
It’s no mean feat, but Ann Morgan manages to pull this off. I was concerned that I just wouldn’t be able to follow either narrative, but as Edie gets more confused, so Jonah finds more clarity, and it’s his journey that really had an emotional impact on me.
It is obvious that the author has taken the responsibility of writing a Black character very seriously – an author’s note explains that in fact she has revised this text since the audio version to provide a “richer, more complex” backstory for her character, and the acknowledgements mention several sensitivity readers. It’s to the author’s credit that this is not a simple “but look, we can all be friends” narrative – the weight of what Jonah has had to carry because of the circumstances he’s been forced to live through is more than anyone should have to bear, and the toll it has taken on him is really well depicted. There’s so much nuance here – and some really quite dark moments, as Jonah confronts the injustices so clearly on display to him.
Edie is another complicated character – she’s not your warm and fuzzy if slightly dotty granny – she’s also seen some terrible things, and she’s made some bad choices. As her memories bleed into her present, the pieces of the puzzle gradually start to slot together, but this is a puzzle with jagged edges, ones that cut deep.
I think what I admire most about this book is the way it swerves the easy wins of sentimentality and delves much deeper into the psyche of the two protagonists. In a book this ambitious, not everything is going to work for everyone, and there were one or two plot points which stretched my credulity, but on the whole, I found so much depth in this book, so much thought and care and rigour – it really impressed me, and I’d love to read more work by this author.
Crossing Over by Ann Morgan is published by Renard Press and is available to purchase here.
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