Every so often, I come across a book that I become completely engrossed in. The prose is easy, the characters are intriguing and I find myself reading late into the night so I can figure out that the story. That is exactly what happened to me when I opened The Runaways, the sophomore novel by Sonya Terjanian.
Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I opened up The Runaways and the synopsis wasn’t exactly clear. I knew it would involve a teenage runaway, trying to break free from what she believes will be a dull future and I knew she would meet a woman who is trying to escape from her mundane life. Was it going to read like contemporary drama? Women’s fiction? Suspense? These were the types of thoughts running through my head as I sat down to flip open the first page.
What I found, as I continued my reading, was that this novel was a little bit of everything: a dark, cold landscape, deeply flawed characters that collide and secrets flow throughout the plot. It was sort of like Scandinavian Fiction meets Southern Gothic Fiction meets a psychological character study. Needless to say, Terjanian had me hook, line and sinker.
I really appreciated how she chose to roll out the story and how she focused on details. I loved the descriptions of the landscape. For the most part, the novel takes place at a summer cottage during a snowstorm. Terjanian did a brilliant job at making the reader truly FEEL the cold. Even I found myself snuggling deeper into the couch and pulling my blanket up a bit higher. Told through alternating chapters between teenage runaway, Ivy, and professional, Mary Ellen, they each are on their own path until their stories collide and they find themselves living together in the woods biting off way more than they can chew.
Something about this one gave me a creepy, southern Gothic vibe. I cannot really put my finger on WHY it gave me this vibe; surely, it was not the landscape I don’t know if it had something to with the encounters between two strangers who are keeping secrets from each other. It sort of reminded me of A Good Man Is Hard To Find by Flannery O’Conner (which happens to be one of my favourite short stories). I don’t believe it was the author’s intention to be “creepy” but the slow, meticulous release of the plot had me feeling like something was going to take a turn for the worst. Maybe it’s because I read so many thrillers?
There were a few things that bothered me throughout the story. For one, I found myself interested in one side of the plot. I really was drawn to the chapters surrounding Ivy but didn’t find myself caring as much about Mary Ellen. I also think that anyone going into this story expecting huge twists and turns will find themselves disappointed. The story is a bit of a slow burn. Finally, the ending left much to be desired for me. When I finished the last page, I said to myself “THAT’S IT??!!” I really wanted some resolutions.
Regardless of my small complaints, I did end up enjoying this story as a whole and would absolutely read more by this author. So, if you enjoy a character study, add this one to your list!