A debut novel about loss, grief, family secrets, and the unexpected sources from which people take solace after unbelievable tragedy.
Cross-Smith (Every Kiss a War, 2014) follows three characters, alternating among their interlinked stories as they struggle to get on with their lives in death's shadow. We find the widowed Evangeline Royce snowed into her house six months after the death of her husband, Eamon, a police officer who was killed on the job. Eamon's lifelong friend Dalton Berkeley-Royce is with her, helping take care of her infant son, Noah, who was born 16 days after his father's death, and she's wrestling with guilt over her developing attraction to a man she'd previously thought of only as a friend. Dalton is also grieving Eamon, who was as close to him as a brother. After his mother committed suicide while he was in middle school, Dalton was adopted by the Royce family; he never knew his biological father. When Eamon died, Dalton swore to protect Evangeline and Noah; he struggles to fulfill that duty while coming to terms with a revelation about his own history and relationship with Eamon. Meanwhile, Eamon's ghost haunts the novel's proceedings both figuratively and literally. He narrates his own life and death from beyond the grave, providing crucial background on the tortured history he shares with Dalton. The structure—modeled after the musical conceit of the fugue, or a melody that is developed via interlocking parts—is an inspired way to tell what is otherwise a simple story. Beyond the tragedy of Eamon’s death and the will they/won’t they tension of Evangeline and Dalton’s relationship, not much actually happens. Instead, the novel is content to circle around the complexities of memory and family history on its way to a revelation that falls a little flat and is occasionally marred by clumsy prose.
The intricacies of the grieving process are revealed in this sensitive novel.