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To the Back of Beyond

by Peter Stamm

Thomas returns from a happy family holiday and walks away with only a penknife and a credit card. No reason, no sense of guilt. At first I thought this was another 'missing person' novel but this one is a bit different as we get both sides of the story, from Thomas as he makes his escape and from Astrid, the wife he has left. Essentially it is a love story but with an element of mystery - totally absorbing!

Extract

Thomas stood up and walked down the narrow gravel path that ran along the side of the house. When he got to the corner, he hesitated momentarily, then, with a bewildered smile that he was only half aware of, he turned away to the garden gate. He lifted the gate as he opened it, so that it didn't squeak, as he had done from when he was a boy, coming home late from a party, so as not to wake his parents. Even though he was stone cold sober, he had a sense of moving like a drunk, slowly and self-consciously. He walked down the road, past the neighbors' houses that got a little less familiar with each one he passed. There was a light in some of the windows; it wasn't yet ten o'clock, but there was no one in the gardens or on the street. Ahead of him grew his shadow as cast by the streetlamp behind, then it merged in the light of the one following, which cast a fresh shadow behind him, which in turn grew shorter, overtook him and hurried ahead of him growing all the while, a sort of ghostly relay of specters accompanying him out of the neighborhood, across the circular road, and into the business district that sprawled away from the village out into the flat land.
Translated by Michael Hofmann

Parallels

Rabbit Run by John Updike
Wakefield by Nathaniel Hawthorne
 

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