I read Crossing the Lines, the new novella by Amanda Huggins – whose previous book won the 2021 Saboteur Award for Best Novella – in one sitting. Based on Red, Huggins’ runner-up in the 2018 Costa Short Story Award, this is the fuller story of runaway Mollie and her dog, Hal. Fifteen-year old Mollie grows up on the New Jersey shoreline at Atlantic City but when her mother moves to boyfriend Sherman Rook’s home five states away in the west, Mollie goes too. She hasn’t even arrived at Oakridge Farm when she knows she’s made a mistake, and that her mother has too. At her new home she makes one friend, a stray dog. Then after weeks on edge waiting every night for the sinister Rook to stumble in from the bar and rattle the locked door of her bedroom, Mollie hears a gunshot in the henhouse and sees the body of a dead dog. She grabs $20, a road map and a sweater and sneaks out of the house. When she sees Rook’s pick-up with the keys in the ignition, she takes that too.
This is a road trip back east as Mollie faces situations and people unknown, strange, threatening and well-meaning. The driver whose daughter ran away. The store owner whose dog died. The biker who offers her a bed for the night.
Huggins is always a delightful author to read. This story is tightly controlled but her language roams free with some poetic turns of phrase and descriptions that make the emotions, and the dusty Seventies mid-America landscape, seem real. In 139 pages she gives us not only Mollie’s dilemma and the solution she pursues, but the viewpoints of characters she meets along the way and their impression of the girl with the dog. And underlaid beneath it all is Mollie’s past, her friends back east, her regrets, guilt and longing for father Phil and brother Angel. Life, she learns, should be lived forwards. Mollie greets every day as a surprise.
BUY THE BOOK
Read my reviews of other work by Amanda Huggins:-
All Our Squandered Beauty, winner of the 2021 Saboteur Award for Best Novella
The Collective Noun for Birds
If you like this, try:-
‘Etta and Otto and Russell and James’ by Emma Hooper
‘The End of the Day’ by Bill Clegg
‘If I Knew You Were Going to be This Beautiful, I Never Would Have Let You Go’ by Judy Chicurel
And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:-
CROSSING THE LINES by Amanda Huggins @troutiemcfish #novella https://wp.me/p5gEM4-5nA via @SandraDanby