Crossroads by Laurel Hightower

How far would you go to bring back someone you love? When Chris’s son dies in a tragic car crash, her world is devastated. The walls of grief close in on Chris’s life until, one day, a small cut on her finger changes everything. A drop of blood falls from Chris’s hand onto her son’s roadside memorial and, later that night, Chris thinks she sees his ghost outside her window. Only, is it really her son’s ghost, or is it something else—something evil? Soon Chris is playing a dangerous game with forces beyond her control in a bid to see her son, Trey, alive once again.

“There’s a single note that plays through all of Laurel Hightower’s Crossroads, and in that note you can hear a mother’s justified devastation, a lover’s acceptance, and the haunting displacement of a ghost. Refreshingly nuanced character, down to earth in the rightest of ways, Crossroads will sincerely move you. There is a big mind, and an even bigger heart, behind this book.” —Josh Malerman, New York Times best-selling author of Bird Box and Malorie

The IndieMuse Review

Crossroads was my first experience reading Laurel Hightower’s work and, in 126 pages of gut-wrenching prose, she has marked herself firmly as a must-read author for me going forward.

Chris is a mother in grieving. Her son, Trey, died violently in a tragic car accident almost two years ago and, since then, her loss has all but defined her life. Living alone after splitting with her husband, she has taken to revisiting the site of the accident on a daily basis, it being the place she feels most connected with the son she has lost.

As the two-year anniversary of Trey’s death approaches, Chris begins to receive nightly visitations from him, from a distance at first but as Chris becomes emboldened by his unexpected return, and is able to see him more clearly, even hold him and speak with him for all too brief moments. He is not quite the son she remembers. He seems more sullen and withdrawn, as if anxious about something he can’t tell her about. So begins Chris’s journey to do what any mother would, and bring her son back to her for good.

This novella covers an incredible amount of ground in such a sparse amount of time. Its psychological horror of losing a loved one in such an abrupt and violent way is tough to read, and it is infused with suggestions of the supernatural which become more overt as things progress, making us question at first whether the supernatural is real, or a manifestation of the extremes of Chris’s increasing loneliness and self-imposed isolation. It is a challenging book, both in terms of content, and the masterful way in which the main character’s decisions are at once heart-breaking to watch and simultaneously completely understandable.

Crossroads seems like a straight-forward story at first glance, but Hightower constantly subverts our expectations. Plot points and characters are introduced, seemingly for one reason, only for things to go in a completely unexpected direction. For a book that carries such a foreboding sense of inevitability, it manages to be incredibly surprising. I was absolutely hooked from page one and although I often dreaded turning the next page, it’s impossible to put this book down once you’ve started. Chris is such a tragic yet compelling protagonist that you are desperate for her to get what she wants, even if we know it isn’t possible. Her grief has so permeated every facet of her life that, when the glimmer of hope does come for her, the reader wants it almost as badly as she does. The real horror of this book is that we know it won’t end well for Chris and it becomes about how far she is willing to stay her current course before she realizes what we, the reader, have suspected all along.

Crossroads is one of those rare books that you will always remember reading. Its powerful message of a mother’s immeasurable love for her child, and the horrifying lengths she will go to in order to keep her son safe is one that will resonate with a lot of readers and the execution is note-perfect in its brutal honesty and unflinching approach. This is an absolute must-read.

RICHARD MARTIN

Richard started reading horror books at a young age, starting with R L Stine’s ‘Goosebumps’ and ‘Point Horror’ series. He traumatised himself at the age of twelve when he read Stephen King’s ‘IT’, and never looked back. He is currently based in the UK, where he lives with his partner, and an inappropriate amount of books.

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