Book Review: Crosstalk by Connie Willis


crosstalkIn the not-too-distant future, a simple outpatient procedure to increase empathy between romantic partners has become all the rage. And Briddey Flannigan is delighted when her boyfriend, Trent, suggests undergoing the operation prior to a marriage proposal – to enjoy better emotional connection and a perfect relationship with complete communication and understanding. But things don’t quite work out as planned, and Briddey finds herself connected to someone else entirely – in a way far beyond what she signed up for.

It is almost more than she can handle – especially when the stress of managing her all-too-eager-to-communicate-at-all-times family is already burdening her brain. But that’s only the beginning. As things go from bad to worse, she begins to see the dark side of too much information, and to realize that love – and communication – are far more complicated than she ever imagined.



I read this book as our monthly selection for our HEA book club over on r/fantasy. I’m glad a couple of friends suggested it otherwise I probably never would have read this one and I really liked it.

This is a book about communication, make no doubt, the theme here is up front and in your face the entire book. Briddey works for a communications company, her boyfriend wants her to get an EED so that they can better communicate their feelings to one another, her family is constantly calling/texting, the rumor mill is highlighted more than once, and to top it all off there’s telepathy. Briddey’s life feels really hectic! And yet we never find out what she actually does at her job DESPITE her workplace being a major setting of the book. I can’t help but feel that was deliberately done as a way to emphasize how we get so easily distracted from the day to day by the amount of information being thrown at us nowdays–texts, social media, the news, etc. How much time do we all spend on things that are distracting us from what we’re supposed to be doing?

In a lot of ways, this book feels like one giant distraction. The way the telepathy works is kind of a mirror for modern communications–we see everyone’s thoughts all the time, every stupid little thing from what people ate for lunch to their real opinions on things because non-face to face communication provides an illusion of a barrier. This book is very much a satire in the same way that Austen wrote satires and for that I can appreciate it. You can take this book on the surface for what it is or you can look underneath the utter ridiculousness and enjoy the themes and messages being presented. Or you can do both. πŸ™‚

This is one of those rare instances for me where I loved the book despite the characters not being very likable. Briddey is such a pushover! She can never stand up for herself or make a decision on her own. By the end of the book she does start to make some decisions but they constantly seem to be the wrong ones still as everyone else is way ahead of her in the game (she’s also not super bright so it takes her much longer to put two and two together). Her boyfriend Trent, I immediately wanted to launch into the sun. He’s overbearing and doesn’t listen to anything Briddey says and right off the bat you get the impression that there’s something up with this guy–there’s some ulterior motive lurking beneath the surface. Briddey’s family is what I would describe as a hellscape. Being an introvert I would have gone mad with the constant calls and texts. Her sisters are both annoying–one of them is a helicopter parent who is always worrying about every single thing her daughter is doing and ranting to Briddey while the other seems to need Briddey’s advice on her love life every five minutes. UGH. Even just thinking back to all their chatter is making my skin crawl. *shudders* The only bright spot is Briddey’s niece–the youngest of them all and the only one who seems to have a brain cell and some sense to go with it.

Then you have C.B., Briddey’s coworker who she forms a relationship with throughout the book due to an unintended circumstance. Unlike Trent, at least C.B. seems to put Briddey first and care about her needs. But there are things he keeps hidden throughout the book as well. My favorite part of the book, of course, was watching Briddey and C.B.’s relationship play out. It’s really funny because here are two people who should have the BEST communication (due to circumstances) and yet they keep managing to hide things from one another and have misunderstandings. I guess one of the other things this book could be saying is that even when faced with facts and evidence of what is going on, someone might reject that truth because people are human and always apply their own doubts and bias to things. In this book this is applied to the love story but really it could relate to any sort of information–this is why we still have flat-earthers after all. Hmm, now I’m wondering if this was also what Willis was trying to convey with this story?

Well, I dug deeper in this review that I thought I would, hah. As for pacing, it starts off a little slow but then really picks up around the 35-45% mark and from there it’s a quick read until the end. The themes are not subtle and most of the characters are annoying but I honestly loved this book. I’m definitely looking forward to exploring some other work by this author. 4/5 stars.

13 thoughts on “Book Review: Crosstalk by Connie Willis

  1. Tammy says:

    I haven’t read Connie Willis in a long time, and this is one I’d like to get to. And yes, she is great at incorporating lots of beneath the surface elements into her books😁

  2. Susy's Cozy World says:

    Your review was great! I don’t know if this is the right book for me, what you wrote about the characters made me think that they would annoy me to no end, but it seems an intriguing book and I had a good time reading your thoughts on it!

  3. maddalena@spaceandsorcery says:

    I believe this story would make me anxious – for want of a better word: already seeing how much people tend to share on social media, from the truly important to the annoyingly banal, is something that makes me wonder about collective sanity, but the world described here would look downright nightmarish! But intriguing, nonetheless… πŸ˜€
    Thanks for sharing!

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