Cracks in the Sidewalk by Bette Lee Crosby

By Ekta R. Garg

September 28, 2011

Rated: Borrow it

When a father and mother lose the only child they have, to what lengths will they go to keep their grandchildren close?  And how do they keep those children in their lives when someone actively opposes their presence?  Bette Lee Crosby answers these questions and poses several challenges to her main characters in her book Cracks in the Sidewalk.

The book opens in 2006 when Claire McDermott, an elderly woman, receives a letter she’d always hoped to get but never thought she actually would.  The letter is from her youngest grandson, Christian, wanting to know more about his mother.  Christian and his older brother and sister have had no contact with Claire since the early 1980s.  As Claire reads and then responds to Christian’s letter, the clock in her mind turns back more than 20 years and she relives the days preceding Christian’s birth and her daughter’s eventual death.

In 1984, pregnant with her third child, Elizabeth Caruthers begins experiencing strange symptoms.  At her mother, Claire’s, urging, Elizabeth follows her obstetrician’s advice and contacts an endocrinologist for extensive tests to determine the cause of Elizabeth’s extreme thirst, weight gain, blinding headaches, and bouts of memory loss.  After an early Caesarean section delivery of her third baby and several tests the endocrinologist determines that Elizabeth has a malignant brain tumor pressing on her pituitary gland, which is causing certain hormones to malfunction.

The news only adds to the stress in Elizabeth’s life.  Despite promising her the moon and stars in the early days of their courtship and marriage, her high school sweetheart husband, Jeffrey, struggles to provide for the family.  Jeffrey refuses to listen to anyone’s advice about the retail clothing store he has opened, and so day after day he watches customers walk right by his store that doesn’t offer anything of use to the available clientele in town.

Elizabeth has begged her parents for loans on several occasions to help Jeffrey’s business, but even with the financial bailouts Jeffrey’s resentment about the lack of growth in the store converts to resentment against Elizabeth’s parents.  As Elizabeth’s condition worsens in the months following her third delivery, Jeffrey actively lashes out against Elizabeth’s parents by refusing to let them see the grandchildren.  His embargo on meetings with the children includes Elizabeth, and the young mother deals stoically with the pain of her physical condition and the pain of not seeing her children.

Claire and Charles take Jeffrey to court, but the legal advantage lasts only until Elizabeth’s death.  In the hours after she breathes her last, Jeffrey takes the children and leaves town.  And Claire and Charles are left to deal with the loss of their only daughter to death and the loss of their only grandchildren to a man’s pent-up frustration with his own shortcomings.

Author Bette Lee Crosby has crafted a book that proceeds at high-speed; even with the weighty issues she tackles, Cracks in the Sidewalk can be read in a single weekend.  The short chapters allow readers to work quickly through this heartfelt story.  She alternates between characters to make the story progress, but she never spends too long on one particular character’s point of view before changing to another person.  This device keeps the story moving forward.

In fact, the story moves so quickly that readers may wish they could have spent just a little more time with one character or another to examine these grave issues.  Crosby handles the emotions well, but she doesn’t provide enough depth to the characters’ hearts for readers to connect with them on the most intimate level.  Certain sections may leave readers feeling like they got just the most cursory information.

Small technical issues aside—although an endocrinologist would indeed be the one to diagnose Elizabeth’s condition and check her progress frequently, no mention whatsoever is made of the oncologist who also would be involved in monitoring Elizabeth’s condition in a real-life situation—technical issues aside,Cracks in the Sidewalk provides readers with a pleasant read.  Female readers, in particular, will enjoy the book, and anyone who has experienced a reunion with an estranged family member or friend will appreciate Crosby’s ending.

Reviewed for


What the ratings mean:

Bookmark it!–Read this book and then buy it and add it to to your own collection.  It’s definitely worth it!

Borrow it–Check this one out from the library; it’s a worthy read, but think twice before spending your hard-earned money on it.

Bypass it–Free time is precious.  Don’t spend it on this book!

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