The Runaway Wife book review

I real a lot of non-fiction. I think this is a byproduct of having an English lit degree. I spent four years filling my brain with fiction, poetry, plays and all manner of fictionalization that I struggle with reading fiction out of my own free will now. But I made a decision at the beginning of the year that I was going to try and read more fiction. 

So when I got the opportunity to get my hands on a copy of The Runaway Wife by Elizabeth Birkelund I was pretty excited for a few reasons, 

1. I had just finished a pile of non-fiction.
2. I was looking for a book to read while we flew home to Canada for a visit.
3. It takes place in Switzerland!

A quick synopsis of the book for you, 

Recently fired from his high-power finance job and dumped by his fiancĂ©e, Jim Olsen has come to the Swiss Alps to clear his head. At the charming Cabane des Audannes, he meets Clio, Thalia and Helene Castellane, who are on a quest of their own: their mother, Calliope, has fled to these mountains to escape her philandering politician husband’s most recent scandal. As snow threatens to descend upon the Alps, the women have come to bring their mother home.

But the sisters are at the point of surrender; it is time for them to return to Paris. Buoyed by wine and inspired by their beauty, Jim impetuously volunteers to assume their search, but soon realizes that he is in over his head. The Alps are filled with beauty and danger, not the least of which is Calliope’s desire to stay hidden. And all the while Jim finds himself haunted by the memory of her daughters and conflicted in his desire for them.

The Runaway Wife is a story of adventure, survival, and romance—and of a man’s discovery of a world outside his conventional life and a new vision of himself within it.

My thoughts,

It was a bit slow going at first because Birkelund does a lot to establish the beauty that is the Swiss Alps but it does pick up momentum and because of a very quick read. This is a great airplane book! I felt a bit of a kinship with Jim as someone who dove head first into an adventure in Switzerland. As a character Calliope is wonderful. She's JUST the right amout of chaos and "ah-ha" moments. The real strength of the novel though is the use of language. Birkelund is a poet and all her words were clearly chosen with care. This bit in particularly gave me word love chills,
 “Every night, he thought, transformed a person in a small way, with the dreams and the tossing and turning of thoughts in the rolling water mill of the mind.  Sleep was not a break from life’s continual sweep.  In it, you were still living life, seeing things you would never see come morning, and it could age you as quickly as daytime.”
Word of caution, don't examine the basics of the plot to closely. If you sit back and think about the situation Jim finds himself in, as a rational person you can't help but think, "Seriously Jim?! Really?" But at the same time I enjoyed the escapism and adventure aspect of the plot. Would I wander off into the Swiss alps looking for a woman whose philandering husband is running for the president of France because some lovely women with awesome names asked me to? No BUT I had a hell of a good time reading about it.

On a personal note, I loved that I knew the locations. I didn't stumbled over the French used or the place names. But I could see how someone who isn't familiar with Switzerland or the French language might find that a little cumbersome while reading.

Word of warning though, if you're someone who like a nice, clean, all loose ends tied up and everything is in it's appropriate bucket and closure at the end. This is not the book for you. You ARE left with a sense of uncertainty about the characters and I know some people really really don't like that. I actually quite liked that aspect of the book. You got the sense there was more to Calliope's story after the book ended and I wanted to know what it was!! 

Overall I would give this book a solid 4 hiking boots out of 5. 

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from HarperCollins Publishers exchange for writing a review. Although this post is sponsored, all opinions are my own.