THE RUNAWAY, BY CLAIRE WONG
PUBLICATION: LION HUDSON PLC; FEBRUARY 17, 2017
About the book:
“Legends start with a kernel of truth and mine will begin here…”
Every teenager has thought of running away from home…or threatened to. What happens when one finally does?
At almost eighteen, Rhiannon Morgan’s life in a quiet welsh village is anything but serene. When another argument between her and her guardian, Diana, finally pushes her over the edge, Rhiannon does the one thing we all have considered. She runs away.
Reaching Dyrys wood, hurt drives her not to return. The woods will now be her home. But how will she survive? Struggling in isolation against harsh conditions, Rhiannon’s imagination takes flight. She dwells in a world of stories – stories that Maebh, the village storyteller, has been telling Rhiannon since the death of her mother.
Back in the small welsh village the fragile balance of community life begins to crack under the strain of Rhiannon’s disappearance. A dark truth, suppressed for a generation, starts to surface. And Maebh’s stories begin to seem less and less like folklore and more like a history retold…
Told with a gentle and sensitive touch, this beautiful novel is about the power of stories; about fitting in and wanting to be wanted. A must read for any story lover.
When I saw this novel I was fascinated not only by the description but also the incredible cover. However, I’m sort of mixed on my overall thoughts about this story. Rhiannon is 17 years old and has been raised by her Aunt Diana after the death of her mother. Rhiannon and Diana seem to butt heads almost constantly and Rhiannon is known for verbal outbursts with others. She has always enjoyed spending time with the elderly Maebh, who knows everything about the village’s history and loves telling stories to anyone that will listen. Right before her 18th birthday, Rhiannon decides to run away after another argument with her aunt and heads to Dyrys woods to be alone. As she works to find food and shelter – determined to make it on her own – the townspeople work at finding Rhiannon and also get to know two newcomers who are there searching for information about their father’s past.
I liked the character of Rhiannon, although I was a bit confused about her socially-unacceptable outbursts. It was clear that she felt like an outsider living with her Aunt and cousins and that she and her aunt did not see eye to eye. Her escape had always been stories – listening to them, telling them to her cousins, or telling them to herself during stressful or sad times. I loved Rhiannon’s whimsical imagination but also loved her useful and responsible survival skills in the woods, which she learned from her late Uncle. Diana seemed concerned only with her political role in the village and her two young children. There were several other key characters, but I didn’t feel like they were very developed. One character, Callum, comes to also hide in the woods after a misunderstanding and it’s obvious that he and Rhiannon hate one another, but I was never clear as to why. Grace and Adam show up in the village not long after Rhiannon runs away and quickly become friendly with the village residents and seem very pleasant and helpful, but again I didn’t feel like I knew them. I think that was what kept me from really loving this novel was the lack of connection with most of the characters.
Claire Wong is clearly a creative and imaginative writer and I adored her concept of a girl running away to the woods, mainly because I believe I had that daydream SEVERAL times when growing up. Rhiannon was obviously strong and resourceful, but it was unfortunate that the only relationships she could create and maintain were either with Maebh and an injured hawk that she nurses back to health. The pacing and flow of the novel were great, but I did find myself skimming quite a bit when it came to some of Maebh and Rhiannon’s stories. I appreciated the themes of supporting one another rather than pointing fingers, but I still just didn’t connect with this novel. Perhaps a younger reader would find this more entertaining?
*Thanks to NetGalley for providing a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.