Crossings, Alex Landragin’s debut novel is as difficult to define as it is to describe. At its most elemental, Crossings is a collection of three novellas that collectively tell a story. There are elements of several different genres present: historical fiction, mystery, fantasy, and romance. And, perhaps most surprising, the novel can be read in two distinctly different ways: traditionally (beginning on page one and reading through the book sequentially), or it can be read it using the “Baroness sequence” as described in the novel’s preface, which leads readers to an alternate sequence. This review is based on a reading of the novel using the Baroness sequence.
Crossings is the story of how a small group of people, with the ability to transfer their consciousness from one body to another (sometimes with the permission of the other individual involved, sometimes without) enter into a type of cat and mouse game that leads them to pursue each other across the globe and the decades. The result is a world tour ranging from a small island in the Pacific circa 1790s to Paris at the times of the Nazi invasions that took place during WWII.
While Landragin directly addresses the horrors committed through imperialism and colonization, his somewhat more indirect examination of issues of identity, gender, and equality are far more interesting. For, truly, when an individual can move from body to body, and experience life as either a woman or man, as someone Caucasian or a Person of Color, as someone young or elderly, and considers the pros and cons of each permutation of human experience when they select their next “vessel”, it not only highlights the many experiential differences, but also our similarities.
Crossings is a tremendous and audacious debut that will leave a reader wondering how the author was able to write a single text that could be read and experienced so differently. Doing that while also telling a compelling and thought provoking story is truly an achievement. Crossings is a novel that needs to be read--regardless of the method chosen!