Tag Archives: novella

#BookReview ‘Crossing the Lines’ by Amanda Huggins @troutiemcfish

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. Amanda HugginsFifteen-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.

Read my reviews of other work by Amanda Huggins:-
All Our Squandered Beauty, winner of the 2021 Saboteur Award for Best Novella

Short stories:-
Brightly Coloured Horses
Scratched Enamel Heart including Red, runner-up in the 2018 Costa Short Story Award
Separated from the Sea

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

#BookReview ‘All Our Squandered Beauty’ by @troutiemcfish #novella #grief

At 122 pages, All Our Squandered Beauty by Yorkshire writer Amanda Huggins packs a powerful punch. It is a sensitively managed novella of a teenager navigating young love, relationships and sex while pulled underwater by grief for the father who died when she was young. His disappearance at sea has never been explained, his body never found; but gossip is becoming history. Kara Bradshaw, believing he would never leave her, hangs on to memories of time they spent together, sure of his love. Amanda Huggins

It is 1978 at Elmwick Bay in Yorkshire. Kara’s youth was punctuated by life beside the sea, gathering sea glass from the sand, identifying the birds flying overhead, watching stars in the night sky, tales of local legends and folklore. All occupations she enjoyed with her father. Now as a seventeen-year-old, Kara hangs out with bikers at Charelli’s café and the amusement arcade but fancies her art teacher, Leo. A thread running throughout the book is that all is not always as it seems, something Kara must understand if she is to accept the past and move on into adulthood. But first she must acknowledge her grief and let her father go.

A promising artist, Kara cannot wait to leave school for university in London. But her best friend Louise seems happy to settle for a life at home with her boyfriend, and Kara’s mother has moved inland where the sea is out of sight. Kara knows her boyfriend Marty would like to marry her and have babies, but she wants more. More love, more life, just more. Huggins writes with delicacy about a fragile teenager who knows what she wants but not why, seeking a path of learning without a father to guide her. Seven years have passed since villagers gossiped that Ged Bradshaw hadn’t really died at sea but ran away with Lola Armitage. Kara sees Lola everywhere, follows her only to discover it is someone she has never seen before.

Kara, unable to understand she still grieves for her father in hundreds of small ways, is seeking definitive answers to unanswerable questions. She looks for escape and finds it in art teacher Leo who offers her place at a summer art school in Greece, funded by the Philip Patou Art Foundation. Kara jumps at the chance. What she finds in Greece is not what she expected. Huggins is a successful travel writer and her description of the island of Lyros is beautiful, seen through the eyes of artist Kara who compares it with her seaside hometown.

This coming-of-age story passes quickly, I read it in two sittings and was left curious. I longed to see more – of Kara’s childhood and of the woman she will become. All Our Squandered Beauty is the story of one summer in her life, interwoven with reminiscences of her father. Huggins’ writing is, as always, delightful, her technical skill invisible on the page leaving the reader to dwell on the emotions. The short fiction form doesn’t allow the exploration in depth of all Huggins’ themes, and hopefully she is turning her attention to a novel.

Read my reviews of Amanda Huggins’ short story collections, Brightly Coloured Horses and Separated from the Sea and her poetry collection, The Collective Noun for Birds.

Why is The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Amanda’s favourite comfort read?

If you like this, try:-
A Week in Paris’ by Rachel Hore
The Last Day’ by Claire Dyer
The Cheesemaker’s House’ by Jane Cable

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:-
ALL OUR SQUANDERED BEAUTY by @troutiemcfish #novella https://wp.me/p5gEM4-56j via @SandraDanby