Crossing the Line
Crossing The Line tells the story of a strong woman who has been able (out of both choice and necessity) to cross the line in a variety of ways: race, sex, education and age. Thea Morgan, the heroine, is an intricately drawn portrait of a woman forced to deal with her past, and thus prepare for her future.
An executive at a shipping company, Thea is a 40-something woman who’s been widowed for two years. Her husband, in addition to being White, came from a Northern patrician family with a certain standing in Philadelphia society. Now that he is dead, his parents want Thea to leave Dallas and move to Philadelphia with her daughter, Jesse, who, like Thea, is light-skinned and treated as White. Thea has not consciously tried to “pass” one way or the other, but has always had to fight racism on both sides; from Blacks who think she isn’t black enough and from Whites who assume her experiences are just like theirs. It is at a wedding of the sister from who she is politely estranged that Thea encounters the Reverend Xavier Thornton, an ex-football player who has become a minister. The two had dated in high school, but the relationship ended abruptly, leaving some issues unresolved. He is a Presence, and the reserved Thea does not want to get drawn back into his orbit. Nevertheless he continues to pursue her, and eventually she needs his support.
As Thea and Xavier’s relationship grows, she must deal with the issue of maintaining her privacy, her fear of getting hurt in love, and the reaction of her friends and family to her dating a man who is both so famous and so Black. Because Xavier is not as well-drawn as the female characters, it was hard to understand his motivation. By the end, however, he reveals more of himself to both Thea and to readers.
Laura Castoro writes fluidly, and with the exception of Xavier, her characterizations are succinct and detailed. Even the minor characters have distinguishing attributes and the dialogue, as well as internal monologue, is believable and moves the action along well. Some of the plot points are not quite as fluid, however, and their awkward intrusion distracts from the primary focus of the book: who is Thea Morgan, and can she be who she wants to be?
Race, in Castoro’s book, is an important aspect of her story but it is Thea’s complex characterization and universal story that are the book’s propelling features.