Crossed Over

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Lowry returns repeatedly to the “mystery” impelling her first visit to Tucker at the Mountain View prison in Gatesville, Texas, but states directly that, “If Peter hadn’t been killed, I would not have made the first trip to see Karla Faye.” Lowry’s seeking out of Karla is intuitive, complexly tied to her own lingering feelings of shock and remorse over the death of her eighteen-year-old son a year following the well-publicized murders. In the course of the book, Lowry suggests that Karla fills various roles that help her assuage her own feelings of guilt and “criminality” as the mother of a troubled son: Karla is simultaneously Peter’s killer, Lowry herself, and a substitute daughter.

However, Lowry is not overtly psychoanalytic in her juxtaposition of her own and Karla’s lives, the power of her book lying in its suggestiveness about both memoir-writing and understanding acts of extreme violence. Mirroring her title, a prevailing image in the book is that of lines and boundaries that are at once an informing symbol and a narrative method. “Lines” demarcating social classes, neighborhoods, and the past from the present, meet with ethical “lines” that Karla and her mother, and perhaps Lowry herself “cross over.” A courageous and rough-edged attempt to understand one’s life through, and alongside, the life of a total stranger, CROSSED OVER is compelling not for the answers it gives but also for the things it leaves unsaid.