The Lines Between Us: A Novel

Written by Rebecca D'Harlingue
Review by Fiona Alison

The Lines Between Us is a multi-period debut, beginning in Madrid in 1660 and partly told in epistolary form through diaries and letters. The novel is Juliana’s story, a young girl who flees to Seville to escape violence and retribution. She is followed by Tia Ana, a loving aunt who fails in her quest to find her niece. Juliana has little choice but to enter a convent and makes that decision prior to finding out she is pregnant. Taking a ship from Seville to Vera Cruz, she entrusts her newborn daughter to a friend and helpmeet, with the proviso that the daughter be brought to the convent and left in the nuns’ care after Juliana is settled. From this difficult beginning, the story spreads itself through the generations to Missouri in 1992, where Rachel finds Juliana’s diary and various letters amongst her recently deceased mother’s belongings.

The premise for this novel is excellent, but it doesn’t hold up its end of the bargain, partly due to some questions it raises. I couldn’t be sure why the earlier part of the book describes Ana finding her recently deceased husband’s diary, or why those entries were relevant to the subsequent action. It also seems Tia Ana gives up too easily on finding her niece, and even when Juliana becomes the convent Madre Superior, why does it take her eight years to attempt contact with her aunt?

The novel raises some interesting thoughts about how we allow our own fears to be visited upon our children, and how we judge the choices of others without having walked a moment in their shoes. This is a very well-written debut, even if the story line falls a little short, and a fitting title incorporating the idea of generations of stories surviving within families.