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The Crossing, Mandy Hager

May 2, 2011

The Crossing Book blurb

The Crossing is the first book in a stunning new trilogy that follows the fate of Maryam and her unlikely companions – Joseph, Ruth and Lazarus.  This fast, suspenseful drama is underpinned by a powerful and moving story about love and loss.

The people of Onewere, a small island in the Pacific, know that they are special – chosen to survive the deadly event that consumed the Earth.  Now, from the rotting cruise ship Star of the Sea, the elite control the population – manipulating old texts to set themselves up as living ‘gods’.  But what the people of Onewere don’t know is this: the leaders will stop at nothing to meet their own blood-thirsty needs…

When Maryam crosses from child to woman, she must leave everything she has ever known and make a crossing of another kind.  But life inside the ship is not as she had dreamed, and she is faced with the unthinkable: obey the leaders and very likely die, or turn her back on every belief she once held dear.

Mandy Hager is a Wellington writer and educator.  She won the Esther Glen Medal for Fiction in 2008 with her novel Smashed.”

[Back cover, Mandy Hager (2009) The Crossing.  Random House: Auckland.]

The Crossing First Page


Maryam ran through the jungle, her heart rapping against her ribs, but she dared not stop.  Ruth was gaining on her, and if she caught her now all would be lost.  She veered off into the lush undergrowth, the crunch of Ruth’s sandals on the shell pathway loud in her ears.  Ahead, a whimbrel burst from the shelter of a pandanus palm, its flight up through the dense canopy of palms and breadfruit trees haphazard as it sought the sun.  Tet-tet-tet, it cried, the rhythm building on the percussion of Ruth’s pounding steps and the pulse of blood that forced its way through Maryam’s veins.

The piercing scent of the pandanus leaves crushed underfoot arrested her and she dropped to her haunches for a moment to regain her breath, closing her eyes, allowing the heady aroma to calm her down.  Not far behind, Ruth was now wading through the undergrowth and Maryam imagined her – arms spread wide to sweep the leaves aside, small prickly burrs of the kakang weed clinging to her thick black hair.  She was fast, Ruth, and no one yet had slipped her….”

[p7, Mandy Hager (2009) The Crossing.  Random House: Auckland.]

NOTE: the Publisher, Random House, offers a further extract of this chapter of the novel on their website.

Themes in the novel


Possible directions for study/questions to apply to The Crossing:


  • The novel starts with Maryam running in front of Ruth. We do not immediately know that it is a race between friends; rather, it seems as if she is being chased. This opening sets the pace, but also creates an ambience of uncertainty – particularly with regards to the nature of friendship.  How are friendship and other loving relationships portrayed in this novel? What defines these relationships, or shows them to be ‘false’ (this is how I feel they are portrayed… or are they just complicated?)?
  • The island has a strong presence in this novel.  It adds to the sense of restrictive, oppressive isolation that holds the protagonist captive in her bid to escape the Apostles… I need to think about it some more…. How important is the setting to the story told?
  • Are these characters strong/weak?… (how do you know this?) How does this shape the story being told? If strong – where do they get their strength from; if weak – where does this come from?
  • Where do the main characters’ strengths/weaknesses come from/lie? Are they social, physical, internal, familial, communal, economic, spiritual, etc.? Do the characters have imagination, ‘inherent’ abilities, ‘taught’/’learned’ skills, ‘personalities’ to draw on…?
  • How important is narrative in this dystopia? How powerful?
  • Which loyalties must Maryam question during this story? Such questioning is a feature of dystopian texts, but which loyalties, specifically, prove unstable… how does this compare to the reader’s own (cultural/individual) experience of loyalty? What loyalties do we rely on daily?
  • How is Maryam characterised? Within the context of her relationships? In connection to her environment?
  • This seems like a ‘coming-of-age‘ story, but what makes it so? How is ‘of age’ defined? It doesn’t feel like a positive thing… so what does this negativity around ‘adulthood’ do to the story?
  • What does it mean to come of age in a dystopia… how does this inform the reader of his/her own world by comparison? Is such comparison inherent to the tale being told?
  • How does Maryam’s coming of age force independence on her? What does this say about ‘the individual’ in society? Not all cultures favour this idea of the individual on their own and apart from the community…  not all cultures see this as a way ‘forward’…
  • How might this text be written differently?
  • What is not different?!!! (from what we know…)
  • How are we to view the master/slave relationships (between the Apostles and the Blessed) in this novel?  This relationship connects us to a much criticised history from which modern nations like to distance themselves.  Why imagine this as a future? Is this a comment on our present? In what way?
  • What freedoms have been removed from the people of Onewere? By whom, how and why?  What is freedom? How do we envisage it? Freedom from what? Freedom to do what? Freedom as opposed to… what?
  • Who holds/maintains hegemony in The Crossing? How? How is this situation communicated to us? How could it be communicated differently? So why communicate it this way? What is this a comment on?
  • The text (so far!) seems to be following the pattern of The Hero’s Journey… How does a hero in a dystopia function? How are we to envisage the ‘Ordinary World’ he/she brings a boon back to? …
  • To be cont…
Meanwhile, check out other blogs I tag with The Crossing – I confess I’m not always deeply specific about the connection, but I tag a blog like that when it connects to my reading of a text.

Texts that invite comparison

Basically forthcoming…  

The rest of the Blood of the Lamb series, of which it forms a part, for starters (and for which there are teachers’ notes)…

Dystopian texts…

I’m thinking of Bernard Beckett’s Genesis and Fleur Beale’s Juno of Taris… simply because of the isolation/island/post-apocalyptic dystopian thing… but there is something there, at a deeper level than setting or plot (Is it connected to New Zealand’s national identity as a safe place to raise kids… the impossibility of ‘utopia’ for adolescents… the deep political control that surrounds the adolescent… (check out Roberta Seelinger Trites on power in YA lit for sure!) I don’t know, something’s there).

If you want a list of dystopian texts, see the blog, Genesis, Bernard Beckett.

Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale came to mind too… and obviously Margaret Mahy raised the idea of 1984

Ref: Roberta Seelinger Trites (2001) “The Harry Potter Novels as a Test Case for Adolescent Literature” in Style 35(3);472-569

How to use this blog

Mindmaps help me think critically.  They help me see the links between things and plot a course through all the observations and questions that a text provokes when I read it ‘as a text.’  This blog is a mindmap of sorts; full of random thoughts and relevant-seeming quotations or ideas.

  • There is a tag cloud to the right of the blog, which shows the topics I am exploring as ‘tags.’
  • You can also use the search bar at the bottom of the page to see if a particular word/book/author/theme is mentioned.
  • Each time I bring an author into the discussion for the first time, I add an “Introducing the author” blog. This is easily found at the beginning of the section under that author.
  • I have a section titled ‘Blog Notes’ in which I explain my blogging style.
  • I have a ‘Literary Resources’ section which includes general ideas on literature and its study as well as the questions I apply to any text I study.
  • These questions (eg. Character Questions) may be useful to any other reader wishing to look at this text differently (refer to very early on in the blogging history of this section).
  • I absolutely welcome discussion: comments, suggestions, ideas, criticisms… please do!

Hager’s The Crossing: a History

Awards won:  

Winner of the NZ Post Book Award for YA Fiction 2010

Publishing History:

First published by Random House, 2009, it is the first in The Blood of the Lamb series (trilogy), followed by Into The Wilderness (Book Two) and Resurrection (Book Three).

Bibliography of secondary literature:

Author information:

Refer earlier blog: Introducing Mandy Hager

Mandy Hager

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