Reader, I have done something I didn't think I would ever do. Not only have I had to DNF another book just before the end of the year, but I …
… I skipped to the end!
Yes, I know! Sacrilege! But I could not finish Crosstalk. The constant storm of interruptions from Briddey’s phone and the people in her life was literally causing my introvert brain to feel anxious and stressed. If I have any praise for Connie Willis in this book, it’s only that her writing is good enough to manifest the negative symptoms of over-connection in my own body.
Chocolategoddess’ review captures pretty much all of my thoughts about this book, from the potential to cause anxiety all the way to Briddey’s lack of intelligence or agency, to the problems with all the other characters. She goes into much more detail about this than I’m willing to.
Briddey a bimbo. I don’t use that word lightly. When the story begins, she is head-over-heels for this guy Trent, who is so obviously a basket full of red flags. But no, she—and all the women in her office—think it’s “so romantic” that Trent wants to get an EED with Briddey before he proposes to her so that she can “feel how much” he loves her. I can feel the contempt and sarcasm dripping from every sentence Willis has written; Crosstalk is a deliberate pastiche and send up of romance and also an ersatz romantic comedy (more on that when I discuss the ending). Briddey is supposedly in some kind of executive position at a tech company, yet it’s unclear what she actually does (or how she ever accomplishes any work with everyone interrupting her).
The constant interruptions are supposed to be funny, a social commentary on how we are all too connected these days. I get it. I empathize and sympathize, Willis. Yet exaggerating it to the level of farce creates a new problem, because it undermines Briddey’s credibility as a protagonist. She has boundary issues in the sense that she literally has no boundaries. She lets her family access her apartment any time they want and hasn’t communicated clearly the fact that they can’t constantly be calling her at work. I would get if it’s one problematic family member, but it’s all of them, including the 9-year-old who acts more like a 13-year-old. (Having skipped to the end, I understand there’s a plot justification for Maeve’s precocity, but it is still jarring and she is still a total Mary Sue by the end of the book.)
Carrie at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books has another great review that echoes a lot of what I’ve said here as well.
Briddey’s lack of agency bothers me so much because there’s really no point in spending all this time in her head (literally) when she’s just along for the ride instead of coming up with ideas herself. After she has her EED installed, she literally spends the next day or so letting other people make decisions for her. And that’s kind of the point where I stopped reading, because I was just done.
I skipped to the end because, despite my misgivings about the writing, Willis had me wondering what was actually going on. The revelations are both more and less interesting than I was hoping. This could have been a much better book had Willis taken things in a different direction. (I’m reminded a bit of Slan.)
Read the two reviews I linked. Don’t read this book if you might feel at all overwhelmed by constantly having the narrative interrupted. I’m not joking: near the end of the book Briddey is trying to have a conversation with another character and Maeve butts in every two lines of dialogue.
To echo another reviewer: “Even though I did not finish it I know I did not like it so - 1 star.”