Crossed Lines by Marie Darrieussecq (translated by Penny Hueston)

‘Those people are crazy—they take children with them.’

Rose and her two children are on a Mediterranean cruise, courtesy of her mother.  Rose is delighted: this cruise provides her with an opportunity to take a break both from her husband and from the house renovations they are undertaking.

But when the cruise ship goes to the aid of shipwrecked refugees, Rose’s life changes.  Rose gives her son’s mobile phone and some of his clothes to Younès, a young refugee.  She wants to help him.  The phone provides a connection with Younès and a way for Rose to try to help.  But how effectively can Rose help Younès?  And what about her family?

I found this novel intriguing.  What is Younès‘s story?  Where is he from, and why did he leave?  Some of the answers are not obvious.  And, because our view into our view into Younès’s world is through Rose’s eyes, it is incomplete.  For me, that is one of the strengths of this novel.  Not because our picture of Younès is incomplete but because Rose, a middle-aged middle-class white woman can never fully comprehend his situation.  She tries, in her own way, to help.  And Younès tries, in his own way, to make sense of where he is.

Rose seems to have difficulty connecting with her own children: a difficult situation for a child psychologist. In part, by being viewed as a surrogate child, Younès meets some of Rose’s needs.  It is complex and complicated: the relationships that humans have with each other.

This is a novel which left me wondering, after I had finished, what would happen next.  Would Younès find the new beginning he was looking for?  Would Rose find what she needs?  And what about her children?  And who are we, really? 

Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Text Publishing for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes. 

Jennifer Cameron-Smith