BORDER CROSSING Review

Border Crossing - Pat Barker

Synopsis: When Tom Seymour, a child psychologist, plunges into a river to save a young man from suicide, he unwittingly reopens a chapter from his past he had hoped to forget. For Tom already knows the young man as Danny Miller. When Danny was ten, Tom presented evidence that helped commit him to prison for the murder of the elderly Lizzie Parks. Danny, full of suppressed memory and now free from prison, turns to Tom to help him recount what really happened, and discover the truth.

Reluctantly, Tom is drawn back into Danny's world, a place where the border between good and evil, innocence and guilt are blurred and confused. But when Danny's demands on Tom become extreme, Tom wonders whether he has crossed the line between the professional and personal relationship, speculating upon, but never realizing, the perilous danger he is in until it is almost too late. 

 

I had such high hopes for this book. Back in April when I was on a female authors kick, I asked several bookworm friends who they recommended, and several said Pat Barker. Upon reading reviews online, I discovered Barker has been around since the '80s and is pretty popular -- at least in England. I checked book summaries of several of her novels and decided on Border Crossing, her 2001 novel that reminded me a bit of The Sixth Sense. I'm a fan of psychological study and recounts of childhood in fiction, and this book promised both. 

 

Sadly, I only got questionable -- at best -- psychology in spurts and almost no "hidden, dark secrets in childhood" elements that the synopsis promised. Needless to say I was very disappointed. 

 

The protagonist is Tom Seymour, a psychologist who is going through a bad divorce. During a stroll through the park, Tom sees a man about to jump into a river to commit suicide and saves him. As it turns out, this man -- Danny Miller -- is a guy Tom witnessed against thirteen years prior in court in Miller's murder trial. As a ten year old, Danny killed an old woman and now he's out of jail. The two meet up and decide to hold sessions, with Tom trying to help Danny get over the darkness of his past. 

 

.... and that's it. At only 215 pages, this book is scant and threadbare, providing only the littlest of details and not much else. I didn't feel for any of the characters; in fact, I pretty actively despised most of them. I didn't care about what they were going through -- Tom and his divorce, Danny going through the trauma of trudging up his past -- and found myself pushing through just so I wouldn't have a book on my shelf I hadn't finished. We only get to see Tom and Danny talk a couple of times, and those encounters are perfunctory and frustrating, with flat dialogue and boring revelations. 

 

I'm going to give this one two stars, if only because the book didn't bore me. It annoyed me, but it didn't bore me. It was easy to plow through, and the premise was interesting enough even if the author didn't deliver.