The Outrun by Amy Liptrot
Published by Canongate Books
Published 21 January 2016
This is my non-fiction choice for June.
WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT
When Amy Liptrot returns to Orkney after more than a decade away, she is drawn back to the Outrun on the sheep farm where she grew up. Approaching the land that was once home, memories of her childhood merge with the recent events that have set her on this journey.
Amy was shaped by the cycle of the seasons, birth and death on the farm, and her father’s mental illness, which were as much a part of her childhood as the wild, carefree existence on Orkney. But as she grew up, she longed to leave this remote life. She moved to London and found herself in a hedonistic cycle. Unable to control her drinking, alcohol gradually took over. Now thirty, she finds herself washed up back home on Orkney, standing unstable at the cliff edge, trying to come to terms with what happened to her in London.
Spending early mornings swimming in the bracingly cold sea, the days tracking Orkney’s wildlife – puffins nesting on sea stacks, arctic terns swooping close enough to feel their wings – and nights searching the sky for the Merry Dancers, Amy slowly makes the journey towards recovery from addiction.
The Outrun is a beautiful, inspiring book about living on the edge, about the pull between island and city, and about the ability of the sea, the land, the wind and the moon to restore life and renew hope.
UNDER WHIRRING HELICOPTER BLADES, a young woman holds her newborn baby as she is pushed in a wheelchair along the runway of the island airport to meet a man in a straightjacket being pushed in a wheelchair from the other direction.
WHAT I THOUGHT
I really enjoyed The Outrun. Liptrot offer a memoir with a difference. This memoir is honest, brutally at times. Liptrot offers a no holds barred account of her descent into alcoholism when she moves from Orkney to London and her home coming in an attempt to sober up, pick up the shreds of her life and heal. I don’t have any personal experience of alcoholism. I drank a lot in my late twenties but that was because I was depressed after a messy break-up and I was not anything resembling an alcoholic. I loved the setting of the book in Orkney. It seems the perfect place to sober up after a painful reality check. The descriptions of the landscape are vivid and made me want to be there. I liked the way The Outrun is structured, using a non-linear narrative to show Liptrot’s experiences in sobriety when she comes home with time shifts showing her past including her experiences in London and growing up in Orkney. The Outrun is vivid, heart wrenching and touching. I highly recommend it.