Winner of the Saboteur Award for Best Novella 2022
When Sherman Rook walks into the Jupiter diner, Mollie’s mama is instantly smitten. Despite her daughter’s reluctance, they leave the New Jersey shore behind and move to his isolated farmstead over a thousand miles west.
Fifteen-year-old Mollie distracts herself from Rook’s cruelty by befriending a stray dog she names Hal, but when Rook crosses a final line Mollie realises that sometimes we must leave behind those we love in order to save ourselves.
With only $20 to her name, she sets out from Oakridge Farm, relying on luck and the kindness of strangers as she makes her way back home across five state lines.
‘Crossing the Lines is a beautifully constructed novella, rich in empathy and atmosphere, and very moving. I look forward to reading more from Amanda Huggins.’ – Alison Moore, Booker-shortlisted author of The Lighthouse and The Retreat
Other titles by Amanda Huggins
All Our Squandered Beauty by Amanda Huggins – Victorina Press
Brightly Coloured Horses by Mandy Huggins | Waterstones
Scratched Enamel Heart by Amanda Huggins | Waterstones
Separated From The Sea by Huggins Amanda | Waterstones
The Collective Nouns for Birds by Amanda Huggins | Waterstones
Amanda Huggins is the author of the novella, All Our Squandered Beauty, which won the 2021 Saboteur Award for Best Novella, as well as four collections of short fiction and poetry. Her travel writing, fiction and poetry have been widely published in anthologies, travel guides, newspapers and magazines. Her short stories have also been broadcast on BBC radio.
She has won several awards for her travel writing, most notably the BGTW New Travel Writer of the Year in 2014, and has been listed and placed in numerous short story and poetry competitions, including Bridport, Bath, and the Alpine Fellowship Award. In 2018 she was a runner-up in the Costa Short Story Award, and In 2020 she won the Colm Toibin International Short Story Award, was included in the BIFFY50 list of Best British and Irish Flash Fictions, nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and her poetry chapbook, The Collective Nouns for Birds, won the Saboteur Award for Best Poetry Pamphlet. In 2021 she won the H E Bates Short Story Competition and was a runner-up in the Fish Short Story Prize.
Amanda grew up on the North Yorkshire coast, moved to London in the 1990s, and now lives in West Yorkshire. She is a creative writing tutor and freelance editor.
Troutie McFish Tales – Authors Blog
Gail Aldwin –
This is a beautifully written novella, where layers of the narrative build to offer insight into two communities and many relationships. Mollie, the young protagonist, travels treacherous landscapes and grows wiser for the journey. Crossing The Lines shows it’s possible to break intergenerational cycles of behaviour … or not. Amanda Huggins uses skilful, sensory prose of offer a wonderful reading experience. What a joy!
Mike Lewis –
A road trip across America, the mistakes and lessons that pass across generations – Crossing the Lines by Amanda Huggins follows the journey of mother and daughter Ella and Mollie as they head west with the dubious Sherman Rook.
First loves, lost loves, an unsettling and lingering threat of violence, Huggins creates a dusty, middle American landscape that acts as a backdrop for Mollie’s incident filled trek home to the East Coast.
This is a beautifully written tightly constructed novella, almost poetic in its descriptions.
Huggins has a masterful grasp of language and within a few pen strokes creates characters that are wholly believable.
The narrative arc works well within such a few pages and Huggins controls the pace and direction of the story with great skill.
Hannah Retallick –
Another beautiful novella from Amanda Huggins. I read it in one sitting. It feels darker and edgier than some of her other stories and is drawn with an expert hand. As always, her writing style gives the reader enough but never too much; profound and unpretentious.
Narrated in the third person, the novella shows a variety of characters’ perspectives, switching in each chapter. It felt unobtrusive, almost seamless. That is quite a feat. Though Mollie is the protagonist, I found myself sympathising with most of the characters, even the unpleasant ones, because they are well-rounded and believable with fleshed-out backstories.
Amanda draws you in and before you know it you’ve reached the end. It is satisfying but makes you curious to know what happens next. It would have been easy for her to tie up the loose ends, but she chooses a subtler, more nuanced ‘open conclusion’. I love this realistic depiction of life, in all its messy complexity! Through her empathetic depictions, we experience the intricacies of the human experience, their vulnerabilities, and their desire to be saved. Some of the characters end up in a good place; perhaps the other characters can overcome their inner demons and choose a better path too. Who knows? Well…I sensed that there was hope.
Sarah Linley –
An atmospheric and haunting coming-of-age story of a young girl escaping her fate and returning to her roots. With compelling characters and evocative prose, this is a journey of self discovery that will stay with you long after you read the last line.
Allison Symes –
This deeply moving novel by Amanda Huggins will have you turnng the page, keen to find out whether the lead character, Mollie, does cross the lines. The story will have you rooting for Mollie as she aims to escape a predatory situation not of her making.
Huggins has a real talent for making you feel you are there with Mollie, sensing her fears and determination not to be beaten. The other major figures in the novel are deftly portrayed. You understand where they come from though I wanted to scream at Mollie’s mother.
Mollie’s journey is transformational in so many ways. Descriptions are vivid, paint the backdrop the reader needs to see, and the action is at an appropriate pace.
Where Huggins does do so well here is in not allowing the drama to spill over into melodrama. It could easily have done so given the themes of predatory behaviour and parental neglect.
An engrossing read where you must find out what happens. Does Mollie get away with her actions? Could there possibly be a good ending here? Do read and find out.
Ali Thurm –
What I love about this novel is the voice – throughout the narrative Amanda Huggins captures the slow American drawl perfectly and the dialogue feels authentically American which shows a real skill. As in all her other poetry and fiction the language is spare but beautifully nuanced.
Crossing the Lines began as a successful short story about a young girl coping with the unwanted attentions of her mother’s new boyfriend. As a longer work, Molly’s gripping story is still central, but now we see characters we only glimpsed before, and the result is a rich collage of voices and points of view. Amanda Huggins has created rounded, interesting characters and brings them to life with a few well-chosen phrases. Molly herself is a sympathetic, strong girl and it’s still her story we really care about – we’re rooting for her; right up to the end we don’t know if she will escape from her potential abuser and find her way back home to her brother. But we also see how other women and girls suffer from the skewed power of men and the various ways they try to escape from their situations. This compassion is even extended to Molly’s deeply manipulative step-father: Sherman Rook is allowed his moment of empathy: ‘He can hear a low keening, primeval and unstoppable, doesn’t register the sound as being of his own making until he feels the wet quilt beneath his cheeks.’
This moving and enjoyable novel considers the lines between states that Molly has to cross in order to make her way back to safety, but the lines are also the boundaries in relationships that should never be crossed.
Tracy Fells –
Amanda Huggins has once again created characters and a story that will linger with you, long after reading. The US in the late 1970s is brought to life by Huggins’ effortless prose, you are there by the Jersey shore, or wiping red dust from your eyes as Mollie bravely sets out crossing the county lines back to where she feels safe and happy, by the sea. There is satisfying narrative arc to this novella, as the characters’ stories weave between timelines, and still each chapter is a complete and perfect story that could be read on its own. This is wonderful storytelling from a truly talented writer who creates characters that you cheer, ache and cry for, yet somehow you also understand why other characters are so damaged and even cruel. Huggins skillfully writes complex people, showing their histories and broken dreams, even those with a cameo role are written with heart and genuine compassion so you feel they exist beyond the page. At times the themes are dark but like life, along with the shadows, there is glorious light, goodness and humour. (I loved the oddly wise fortune teller who was spot on with her prediction about Ronald Reagan.) The ending of ‘Crossing the lines’ is both gentle and beautiful, promising that kindness and love will always prevail.
I will be thinking about Mollie and Hal for some time, and may soon have to read this all over again.
Alyson Faye –
Reading this novella, it’s hard to believe the author, Amanda Huggins, is British and lives in Yorkshire, as she has completely nailed the American nuances, phrasing and references for this tale, set in the late ’70s. Mollie, the teenager protagonist, originally appeared in Huggins’ Costa prize winning short story, ‘Red’, and now her backstory and new journey (both physically across several states) and emotional are given more scope in this novella, which is rich in character vignettes. Mollie runs away from her abusive new stepfather, and apathetic mother, Ella, jacks the truck and starts her journey back to her father and brother. Along the way she meets grifters, kind souls, abusers, guardian angels and she is adopted by a stray dog, who she names Hal. I am a sucker for dogs in stories (as I am in real life) so to be honest, I was in deep emotionally when Hal came on board. Huggins’ prose is exquisite, sometimes poetic, and rich in hidden layers. She seamlessly switches perspectives in this story, each petite chapter giving another glimpse into the characters overlapping with Mollie, throwing a light on their flaws and backgrounds. This is no mean feat to carry out and Huggins makes it work without leaving the reader feeling disconnected. Mollie, however remains the heart and soul of this story and the ending brought a tear to my eye.
Leslie Zajac (verified owner) –
I really enjoyed reading this novella. I was so captured by the amazingly descriptive writing I read it in one sitting. So many little cameos along her journey that really peak your interest. Amanda writes in such a way you are transported to the places she describes. Looking forward to her next book.
Jan Clark –
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and look forward to Amanda’s next publication!