When I first read the description of this book, it sounded very much like a girl meets boy and they fall in love sort of book, albeit through the modern convenience of telephones. Not that I have any problem with girl meets boy and they fall in love. I read quite a few books where this is indeed the basic plot. But this is only the plot here in the very strictest of senses. What Thornton has done instead, is to write a lovely, delightful novel focused more on the journey than on the presumed outcome. And that was a happy surprise.
Mina is a single mom who works at a insurance company's call center. Her younger sister, who is still a teenager, lives with her since their mother move out and in with her boyfriend several years ago. Mina's daughter is an avid bookworm who is struggling with her peers. They are all sort of treading water in their own lives and while Mina is trying to be the best mother and sister she can be, she is a bit overwhelmed.
Peter is a widowed Cambridge geography professor with two young daughters. He has a pretty good, strong network of friends but he's still lonely and as the only parent, a bit at a loss when it comes to shepherding his twins through some of the inevitabilities of childhood.
When Peter crashes his car into a tree stump, Mina is the one who fields his insurance call. For each of them, there's something different about the person on the other end of the telephone and when Peter has a second accident, he specifically asks for Mina to handle his claim. She copies down his number and follows up his call center call with a call of her own. And a warm, supportive telephone friendship springs up. They use each other as sounding boards for whatever is going on with their children, with Mina's sister, and so much more. Their conversations offer them a sense of belonging, the chance to help and be helped, and to add a bit of spark to someone elses' day. Could they, after all they share, be just what each needs in life?
I expected the phone relationship to be a much smaller part of the story than it is. Peter and mina's relationship is unhurried, mature, and wide-ranging. And while it doesn't always go smoothly, it is a deeply felt, well-imagined, truthful relationship like we should all have with the dear friends and loved ones in our lives. Thornton has created two characters who are as human as characters can be. They are comfortable and easy and the sorts of people I'd love as friends. And once I realized that this was not a novel in a rush to have the characters meet and become a couple, I abandoned myself to the slow and pleasing pace.
The plot ambles along, drawing the reader in as both the everyday and the out of the ordinary punctuate Peter and Mina's lives. There is just enough conflict to keep the novel from becoming too treacly but still stay true to the characters as they are drawn. The final climax is well-timed and leaves the reader fairly certain of and contented by the knowledge of what happens after the last page is turned.
Crossed Wires is original and charming, well-written and captivating, deeply-felt and sincere. The echoes of the numbers one and two, both in Peter and Mina's single-parenthood but also in the people of Mina's daughter and Peter's twins, resonate and challenge the reader to consider notions paired and alone. I thoroughly enjoyed all of it and will definitely be searching out more of Ms. Thornton's work in hopes of capturing the magic she's offered in this novel.