On Books is a new literature review series by NPR Berlin made possible in part by Shakespeare & Sons. This review will air on NPR Berlin 104,1 FM during Morning Edition on Friday, September 16th at 11:49 AM.
In times of increasing urbanization, the countryside – or rather, nature – has become a mythical place: a place to escape to from the noise and distractions of the city. Amy Liptrot's novel The Outrun picks up on this familiar notion, but it is her personal perspective that makes her debut unique, thrilling and somewhat enchanting.
Growing up on a sheep farm in the west of Orkney's mainland, Amy's childhood is ridden by her emotionally unstable father. To overcome her shyness as a teenager, she starts drinking and dreams about leaving behind her rural home. When she finally does at the age of 18, it is everything that she wished for, but not what she needs. She gets dragged into the temptations of big city life: clubs, beautiful people and even more alcohol. It is a whole series of events – among them, a near rape – that make her realize she needs help. Driven by this wholly new feeling of freedom she finds in sobriety, she returns to the Orkney Islands – where she starts to reconnect with herself by coming to terms with her homeland.
At first glance, The Outrun might seem like a story that has been told before. However, it is Liptrot's attentive and at times deeply poetic depiction of nature that makes this novel so compelling. With every page, Amy gets closer to herself, evoking in the reader a growing desire to go out and find those mythical places. It is not only a story about rediscovering the beauty of nature, but also one about recovering one's self – which might be, after all, the greatest challenge of our time.