Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Crossed Wires, by Rosy Thornton
There are books you read that leave you with a smile on your face for quite some time after you turn the last page and close the cover. Still smiling, I can say that Crossed Wires, by Rosy Thornton, is one of those books.
"Autocare Direct Motor Insurance. My name is Mina, how may I help you?" So begins the story of Dr. Peter Kendrick, a Professor of Geography at Cambridge and Mina Heppenstall, a call center operator. After Peter calls to report a second small accident, there is something in his hesitant conversation that makes Mina dig a little further, and she discovers that Peter is a widower whose wife died in a car accident 4 years previously. Against company policy, Mina takes Peter's number and calls him after hours, on her own. The story evolves from there, but on parallel courses, tied together on Sunday nights at 9pm, when the conversations take on a weekly regularity.
In fact, the book seems to have a duality theme. The lives of the two protagonists are explored individually and fully. Mina is the mother of a 10 year old named Sal, a confirmed bookworm whose teacher fears for her social development. Mina also has responsibility for Jesse, her 17 year old sister, who seems to float on the periphery of the story, but is central to the female relationships in Mina's family. There seems to be an emphasis on the mother-daughter relationship in Mina's story which recurs between Mina, Jesse and their mother, as well as between Mina's mother, Mina and Sal. It's quite a layered scenario and one full of satisfying outcomes for all.
Peter's household, on the other hand, has its own hand in the duality theme. He is the father of identical twin daughters, and has raised them alone, with help from friends, since the age of 5. As an identical twin myself, I found the description of the girls' relationship eerily reminiscent of my own with my sister, down to the silent language, the mirror-handedness and the exclusionary nature of their relationship. I also felt Peter's pain as the girls start to develop their own individuality. It is truly the thing parents of twins long for and dread at the same time. This was brilliantly described by the author. Peter's life is rounded out by his supportive relationship toward his doctoral student-baby sitter, Trish, and his good friends, Jeremy and Martin.
Each main character could have their own novel, as far as I'm concerned. Their stories were that absorbing and descriptive. However, we get the bonus of getting two for one. The narrative switches easily between the two separate lives, and when a near-tragedy strikes one, the other reaches out and the stories really connect for the first time.
I could say that all ends well here, but I won't. You have to keep reading to get the ending that you are hoping for. And Ms. Thornton delivers, in the sweetest way possible. It's a wonderful story, well conceived, well written and beautifully executed. I'm still smiling.