They Make it in the End: 5 Fictional Tales of Sweet, Satisfying Escape

Because, sometimes, you need to know before you start. Spoilers be darned.

Escape

Image © Shutterstock

Women and girls held captive by monstrous men is a theme returned to by writers again and again, perhaps because it is echoed in real-life headlines. In these books, at least, the captives ultimately free themselves, and their captors get their comeuppance, whether at the hands of the authorities, or, even more satisfying, the hands of their victims. For stories of abuse and escape, check out these novels and memoirs.

My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent

Fourteen-year-old Turtle eats raw eggs for breakfast, is handy with a gun and knife, and has the sort of wilderness survival skills that could win her her own reality TV show. She also has a paranoid, sexually and emotionally abusive father who, despite letting Turtle attend school and socialize (a bit) with other kids, has all but made her his hostage since her mother died when she was six. In Gabriel Tallent’s new novel, My Absolute Darling, Turtle’s existence is just tolerable enough that she doesn’t even question it – until she meets (and rescues) a boy, with whom she falls in love. The question then is how Turtle can rescue herself.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor is sweet, scary-smart, funny, and voluptuous – assets which do not escape the malign eye of her mother’s creepy boyfriend. In this tender and bittersweet novel Eleanor tries to navigate the pangs of first love while hiding the truth of what’s going on at home from the new boy in her life. Ultimately, Eleanor has to decide at what price she can fight for her freedom to feel safe in her own home, and Park comes to understand that truly loving someone sometimes means letting them go.

Room by Emma Donoghue

Told cleverly from the point of view of five-year-old Jack, this ingenious novel asks the question: what if your entire world consisted of a small, windowless room? What would you do to escape? And what would you think of the real world once you got out? Jack’s mother suffers abuse at the hands of her kidnapper, who is Jack’s father, for years, but when he comes after Jack, she makes a bold plan to win their freedom. Life outside their room is far more exciting, colorful, and confusing than anything Jack has known, and in the end he, and his mother, come to a new understanding of the meaning of home.

The Never List by Koethi Zan

Spookily similar to the real-life case of the three women held captive by Ariel Castro in Cleveland, this novel traces the life-altering consequences of two teenager friends’ bad decision to accept a ride from the wrong person. The girls are taken captive and held in a basement for years before one finally manages to escape, while the other doesn’t make it out. Ten years later, the survivor is living under a new name, but with old guilt and shame about what happened, why she lived, and why her friend was left behind.

My Abandonment by Peter Rock

This novel offers the same premise as My Absolute Darling – a father and daughter living mostly by their wits in semi-isolation. But in Rock’s novel, which was based on a true story, the father is far less malevolent, and the duo lives apparently contentedly until they are discovered one day and their world is torn apart. Soon, though, questions arise as to just how well cared for the daughter actually was, and if the man she’s called her father is actually related to her at all. Rock is more concerned with questions about wilderness and civilization, and what constitutes a good, or at least wholesome, life, than scary stories about bad men in the woods, but his novel is haunting nonetheless.

 

The Only Stupid Question Is the One You Don’t Ask

That said…

It’s Ask a Stupid Question Day!

Burning Questions

Got any burning questions? … See what I did there?

Originally started by teachers in order to encourage their students to be curious and to think about and question the things around them, it translates quite nicely to a library setting.

Teachers in school teach in a proactive way, planning ahead of time what their students will learn and the best way to accomplish said learning. Librarians teach too, but we’re more reactive than proactive. We don’t plan out what knowledge to impart to people. We wait for them to come to us looking for a specific piece of knowledge and we either find it for them or help them to find it for themselves. So what better place to ask a “stupid” question than at a library?!

When did synchronized swimming become an Olympic sport? What are the origins of “Tuesday”? Why can’t I give my dog chocolate? What happened to the dinosaurs? What time is it in Dublin? Why do you drive on parkways and park on driveways? Whatever question you’ve got, come in to the library today and we will either find you an answer or do our level best to point you in the right direction.

Post Censored Due to Unfit Content

It’s Banned Books Week!

Banned Books 17

What is Banned Books Week?

That’s an easy one. It’s an annual celebration of your right to read whatever you want.

And why is it important?

This answer is longer, but still pretty easy. I’ll keep it to three main points.

First off, in this country and at this time, it’s pointless. To begin shutting down or cutting out ideas, perspectives and lifestyles that a specific person, or group of people, doesn’t understand, identify with or approve of solves LITERALLY NOTHING. For anybody. Including those that are attempting to challenge or ban the material. Nothing makes a book shout, “Check out what I’m about!” louder than someone else shouting not to check out what it’s about. Plus, even if “they” hypothetically manage to ban a book from a library or school there are hundreds of other places that a determined reader can go to get it. Pointless.

Second, one persons obscene or unfit material is another persons broadened horizons. Reading about something does not make you automatically believe what you have read, but it does help you to be aware of and consider other perspectives. There is evidence that reading encourages and increases empathy. Empathy – generally listed as a positive human quality… by, like, everyone. The other big reason that a lot of books with violence or sex or bad language or “adult situations” and so on, are challenged, especially books for teens and younger readers, is to “protect the children!” But here’s the thing, when those topics are addressed in books for younger readers they are done so from the perspective of younger characters and talked about in a way that is accessible and appropriate to that age group, helping the reader come to terms with and learn about the fact that whatever it is exists in the real world. Ignoring it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen and censoring it will just create kids who are blind-sided by it when they encounter it as they get older.

Banned Books 17-2

Third, no one likes to think about human rights and civil liberties in “use ’em or lose ’em” terms, but… It’s a potentially slippery slope – 1 banned book can become ten banned books, can become one hundred, can become state approved reading list only. It’s a little dramatic, I know, but it has happened, and, historically speaking, cultures (or, call a spade a spade, regimes) that make a habit out of banning books are often just around the corner from burning and destroying them (and occasionally their readers). Also, not typically super-happy places to live. I’m just saying.

So, there you are. Banning books – pointless, counter-productive and oppressive.

Support your right to read what you want – READ A BANNED BOOK TODAY! 

If you need help finding one (there are lots) you can find lists here.

Books to Film – October Releases

The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin

The Mountain Between Us

The Mountain Between Us filmMovie: The Mountain Between Us
When it comes out: October 6
What the book is about: On a stormy winter night, two strangers wait for a flight at the Salt Lake City airport. Ashley Knox is an attractive, successful writer, who is flying East for her much anticipated wedding. Dr. Ben Payne has just wrapped up a medical conference and is also eager to get back East for a slate of surgeries he has scheduled for the following day. When the last outgoing flight is cancelled due to a broken de-icer and a forthcoming storm, Ben finds a charter plane that can take him around the storm and drop him in Denver to catch a connection. And when the pilot says the single engine prop plane can fit one more, if barely, Ben offers the seat to Ashley knowing that she needs to get back just as urgently. And then the unthinkable happens. The pilot has a heart attack mid-flight and the plane crashes into the High Uintas Wilderness– one of the largest stretches of harsh and remote land in the United States.

So B. It by Sarah Weeks

So b itSo B It filmMovie: So B. It
When it comes out: October 6
What the book is about: She doesn’t know when her birthday is or who her father is. In fact, everything about Heidi and her mentally disabled mother’s past is a mystery. When a strange word in her mother’s vocabulary begins to haunt her, Heidi sets out on a cross-country journey in search of the secrets of her past. Far away from home, pieces of her puzzling history come together. But it isn’t until she learns to accept not knowing that Heidi truly arrives.

The Chinaman by Stephen Leather

The ChinamanThe Foreigner filmMovie: The Foreigner
When it comes out: October 13
What the book is about: Jungle-skilled, silent and lethal, he had killed for the Viet Cong and then for the Americans. Now all that was behind him. Quiet, hard-working and unassuming, he was building up his South London take-away business. Until the day his wife and youngest daughter were destroyed by an IRA bomb in a Knightsbridge department store. Then, simply but persistently, he began to ask the authorities who were the men responsible, what was being done. And was turned away, fobbed off, treated as a nuisance. Which was when the Chinaman, denied justice, decided on revenge. And went back to war.

Crystal Clear by Eric Le Marque

Crystal Clear6 Below filmMovie: 6 Below: Miracle on the Mountain
When it comes out: October 13
What the book is about: In this gripping first-person account, former Olympian Eric LeMarque recounts a harrowing tale of survival—of eight days in the frozen wilderness, of losing his legs to frostbite, and coming face-to-face with death. But Eric’s ordeal on the mountain was only part of his struggle for survival—as he reveals, with startling candor, an even more harrowing and inspiring tale of fame and addiction, healing and triumph.

The Snowman by Jo Nesbo

The SnowmanThe Snowman filmMovie: The Snowman
When it comes out: October 20
What the book is about: Antihero police investigator, Harry Hole, is back: in a bone-chilling thriller that will take Hole to the brink of insanity. Oslo in November. The first snow of the season has fallen. A boy named Jonas wakes in the night to find his mother gone. Out his window, in the cold moonlight, he sees the snowman that inexplicably appeared in the yard earlier in the day. Around its neck is his mother’s pink scarf. Hole suspects a link between a menacing letter he’s received and the disappearance of Jonas’s mother—and of perhaps a dozen other women, all of whom went missing on the day of a first snowfall. As his investigation deepens, something else emerges: he is becoming a pawn in an increasingly terrifying game whose rules are devised—and constantly revised—by the killer.

Same Kind of Different as Me by Ron Hall

Same Kind of Different as MeSame Kind of Different as Me filmMovie: Same Kind of Different as Me
When it comes out: October 20
What the book is about: Meet Denver, a man raised under plantation-style slavery in Louisiana in the 1960s; a man who escaped, hopping a train to wander, homeless, for eighteen years on the streets of Dallas, Texas. No longer a slave, Denver’s life was still hopeless—until God moved. First came a godly woman who prayed, listened, and obeyed. And then came her husband, Ron, an international arts dealer at home in a world of Armani-suited millionaires. And then they all came together. But slavery takes many forms. Deborah discovers that she has cancer. In the face of possible death, she charges her husband to rescue Denver. Who will be saved, and who will be lost? What is the future for these unlikely three? What is God doing? Same Kind of Different As Me is the emotional tale of their story: a telling of pain and laughter, doubt and tears, dug out between the bondages of this earth and the free possibility of heaven. No reader or listener will ever forget it.

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

WonderstruckWonderstruck filmMovie: Wonderstruck
When it comes out: October 20
What the book is about: Ben and Rose secretly wish for better lives. Ben longs for his unknown father. Rose scrapbooks a famous silent actress. When Ben finds clues and Rose reads enticing news, the children independently run to New York for what they are missing. Ben’s story in words, Rose’s in pictures, come together in deafness.

Jungle by Yossi Ghinsberg

JungleJungle filmMovie: Jungle
When it comes out: October 20
What the book is about: What begins as a dream adventure for four amicable, if hastily met, muchileros (backpackers) quickly becomes a struggle for survival as they unravel under the duress of the jungle. They are an odd mix to be sure: Marcus, the Swiss mystic; Karl, the shady Austrian geologist; Kevin, the well-intentioned American photographer; and Yossi, the Israeli adventurer. “Jungle” is the incredible true story of Yossi Ghinsberg’s triumph over the most adverse and frightening of circumstances. It is a tale of survival and human fortitude against the wildest backdrop on the planet.

1922 (Full Dark, No Stars) by Stephen King

19221922 filmMovie: 1922
When it comes out: October 20
What the book is about: 1922 is a novella by Stephen King, published in his collection Full Dark, No Stars. The story opens with the confession of Wilfred James to the murder of his wife, Arlette, following their move to Hemingford, Nebraska onto land willed to Arlette by her father.

Thank You for Your Service by David Finkel

Thank You for Your ServiceThank You for Your Service filmMovie: Thank You for Your Service
When it comes out: October 27
What the book is about:  In the ironically titled Thank You for Your Service, Finkel writes with tremendous compassion not just about the soldiers but about their wives and children. Where do soldiers belong after their homecoming? Is it reasonable, or even possible, to expect them to rejoin their communities as if nothing has happened? And in moments of hardship, who can soldiers turn to if they feel alienated by the world they once lived in? These are the questions Finkel faces as he revisits the brave but shaken men of the US 2-16 Infantry Battalion.

Where to Start: The 7 Must-Read Sherlock Holmes Stories

Sherlock Statue

Sherlock Holmes statue in London, England/Photo © Shutterstock

“Elementary,” “Sherlock,” “House,” “Sherlock Holmes”: These are just some of the more obvious adaptations of the great series of work by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle made in recent years. If you are a fan of any one of these, or if you are simply looking to dive into classic literature that has shaped detective-storytelling for decades, here is a cheat sheet for the must-read stories from Doyle’s fantastic collection of works.

1. A Study in Scarlet

A Study in Scarlet
If you want to acquaint yourself with Sherlock Holmes and his partner-in-crime-solving, Dr. John Watson, you should really start at the beginning. Doyle’s characters are still taking shape in this first tale, but it’s truly essential to set up the rest of the stories. In it, we learn how the pair came to meet and work together, and are introduced to Sherlock’s idiosyncratic and ingenious ways.

2. The Sign of Four

The Sign of Four
Also a good place to start, “The Sign of Four” explains how Watson came to be married: a key point in the relationship between the two men. Watson as the domesticated man is a stark contrast to Holmes’s independent and disconnected nature, and is often depicted in – and at the core of – various adaptations of Doyle’s work.

3. The Adventures and Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes

A Scandal in Bohemia
The first story in the collection The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, this may not be Doyle’s longest tale, but it has left quite a lasting impression as the only piece to reference “The Woman” Irene Adler. Doyle’s stories frequently refer to “women’s intuition” and many of his female characters are perceived as quite clever (if not, perhaps, untrustworthy), but only Adler has gone on to be repeatedly portrayed in television and films as one of the people held highest in Holmes’s esteem. For anyone interested in the character’s origins, “A Scandal in Bohemia” is essential.

Other stories from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes worth noting are: The Boscombe Valley Mystery, The Man With the Twisted Lip, The Speckled Band, and The Copper Beeches.

4. The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes

The Final Problem
Brought to the reader in the final story of the collection The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, James Moriarty is considered to be the arch-nemesis of detective hero Sherlock Holmes. He is described by Holmes as the “Napoleon of crime” and the only man to match him in wit. Simply put, no list of Holmes must-reads would be complete without the tight but significant story of their battle at the falls of Reichenbach.

Other stories from The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes to consider adding to your list are The Gloria Scott, The Greek Interpreter, and The Naval Treaty.

5. The Hound of the Baskervilles, A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of Four

The Hound of the Baskervilles
Written after The Final Problem but set before, The Hound of the Baskervilles is probably Doyle’s most famous Holmes adventure and therefore should not be missed. Rather than a short, Hound is a longer novel like A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four and an enjoyable romp of a mystery that stands alone better than any other Holmes work.

6. The Return of Sherlock Holmes

The Empty House
For reasons that shall not be spoiled for newbies, Watson goes several years without documenting Holmes’s cases. The two are finally reunited in this first story of the collection The Return of Sherlock Holmes. You will be delighted by Watson’s joyful reaction to his friend’s reappearance, and this short will lead you directly into a new series of adventures for the pair including The Dancing Men and The Three Students.

7. The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes

The Three Garridebs
In the final collection of short Holmes stories, The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes, lies a small narrative called The Three Garridebs. The case itself is not necessarily the most fascinating of Doyle’s work, but it is in this particular story, when Watson is suddenly injured, that Sherlock’s true affection for his only friend is revealed. It is a lovely note on which to end such a wonderful anthology of works, as it is really where the stories began: a surprising, and perfect, friendship. And that is why the small tale should find its way to your must-reads.

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There are a great deal more Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson stories beyond what we’ve featured on this list, and all are worth exploring. These choice titles, however, should not be skipped and will offer the perfect introduction to Doyle’s sharp and highly revered world. If you’re a smart reader looking for something classic but fun, the decision to start these delightful tales should be rather, well, elementary.