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CROSSWAYS by Sheila Kohler Kirkus Star

CROSSWAYS

By Sheila Kohler

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 2004
ISBN: 0-86538-112-7
Publisher: Ontario Review

Psychological thriller from Kohler, author of four previous novels and three story collections (Stories From Another World, 2003, etc.), about a family whose recent misfortunes may have been acts of crime rather than tragedy.

In the 1970s, South Africa was a haunted place for many whites who found themselves unable to live with the contradictions of the place. One such is Kate Kempden, from a wealthy English family, who grew up in luxury but chose, after university, to move to Paris, where, as a translator, she has lived since. Now Kate has returned to Johannesburg for the funeral of her sister Marion, who died in a car crash that has also left Marion’s husband, Louis, in intensive care. Louis is a heart surgeon, and he and Marion have three small children. Back home now with her mother, her aunt, and her nieces and nephews, Kate has to deal with present and past sorrows alike as she tries to make arrangements for Marion’s children, monitor Louis’s condition, and recall the things that drove her to exile in the first place. In the hospital, meanwhile, Louis bides his time, remarkably clear-headed for someone supposed to have suffered severe brain damage. Kate (who may have been in love with Louis years ago) has heard from her late sister about his “irregularities,” but Marion was far too English to tell her the whole story. A police detective investigating the accident provides her with some rather squalid details about her sister’s domestic life with Louis, as well as mentioning some very odd circumstances connected with the crash. Again Kate is faced with the overwhelming question: Is it just me, or is there something very wrong about this place? And this time she’s not content to shelve the question by leaving.

Subtle and sharp, a marvelous portrait of the inner lives of two people trapped in an alien world they’d supposed to be their home.