I opened the digital edition of Crossings by Betty Lambert (Arsenal Pulp Press) while sitting on a beach in northwestern Ontario. Next thing I knew, I’d read 100 pages on the 1×2" screen of my BlackBerry. At home I read the next 193 pages in what felt like one breath—and actually gasped as I read the last line.
Crossings, set in the 1960s, tells the story of Vicky, a writer, and her volatile relationship with an ex-con turned logger by the name of Mik. When it was first published in 1979, it stirred up controversy for its candid depiction of domestic violence, and sexual and emotional abuse—Lambert is quite direct in exploring the gap between the rise of sexual liberation in the 1960s and the ongoing, largely silent, battle between the genders. Vicky is anything but quiet about it. She vividly describes her visits to the “nut lady” (her therapist), offers the intimate details of her unusual and often violent sexual relationship with Mik, and talks openly about her abortion and multiple pregnancy scares.
Lambert’s off-beat, unconventional style—a non-chronological plot structure and short, abrupt sentences—practically turned the page for me. Her dialogue is razor sharp, and rich in brilliant subtext, making a statement that’s both loud and subtle.
Crossings is smart, witty and still relevant in the twenty-first century. It is truly a lost gem, so worthy of republication to honour Vancouver in its 125th year.