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By Janet Clapp

Books Checked Out

Have you ever imagined running away from your life? Sometimes people get overwhelmed in the moment and dream of hitting the road, escaping the pressures of the daily grind. Sometimes a traumatic event or a criminal act prompts the getaway. Here are some novels in which the main characters create a new identity — a new life.

“The Passenger” by Lisa Lutz.

When Tanya’s husband dies accidentally, she flees the scene. She was somebody else before she became Tanya and now she will be Amelia. “Then I scribbled some ideas for what Amelia Keen might be like. She’d have good posture. She’d look like someone who read books. She’d read books…One thing I knew for sure about Amelia Keen: she was a single woman and she was going to stay that way.” But Amelia gets in trouble, so she becomes Debra. As the name and hair color changes multiply, the narrator slowly loses her own identity. “All of the things I had once believed about myself, about my inherent decency—I didn’t have the same foothold on them as I once had.”

“The Secrets We Left Behind” by Susan Elliot Wright.

Eve has a good life: a nice husband, a new grandchild, a meaningful job, and even a devoted dog. But her life is a lie. “Today was the winter solstice, and it was also my fiftieth birthday, though no one knew that. As far as my family was concerned, my fiftieth was three and a half years ago when we celebrated according to the date on my birth certificate…It felt strange, knowing that it was such a significant day and not being able to tell anyone.” When a voice from the past brings up secrets buried, she must face what she has tried to forget. “I stared at the blank document for a while, marveling at how easy it was to erase the words, to make it as though they had never been written. If only you could wipe out the past that easily. I tried to imagine what life would have been like if it hadn’t happened, but then again, if it hadn’t…”

“One Step Too Far” by Tina Seskis.

Attorney Emily Coleman abandons her husband and her life by running away to London. “It’s funny how easy it is, when it really comes down to it, to get up from your life and begin a new one. All you need is enough money to start you off, and a resolve to not think about the people you’re leaving behind.” Despite finding a new place to live, a new job, and a new friend, even the new name Cat, she discovers that it isn’t easy to escape memories and emotions. “It seems I can only run away from myself if I keep tighter control, keep every aspect of my previous existence in the past.” As time passes her new life falls apart.

“Ladder of Years” by Anne Tyler.

As a doctor’s wife and mother of three, Delia is a “sad, tired, anxious, forty-year-old woman who hadn’t had a champagne brunch in decades… [Her children] were great galumphing, unmannerly, supercilious creatures.” While on a family vacation Delia wanders off to become somebody with no responsibilities or relationships. “Delia pictured a map of the entire East Coast from Nova Scotia to Florida—an irregular strip of beige sand dotted with tiny humans, a wash of blue Atlantic next to it even more sparsely dotted. She herself was a dot in motion, heading south. She would keep going till she fell off the bottom of the continent, she decided.”

The Rutland Free Library has the titles above and many other books in which you can lose your sense of self.

Happy reading!

Janet Clapp

Janet Clapp is an adult services librarian at Rutland Free Library.

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