Culture, Entertainment, Lifestyle, Review

Book Review: The Outrun by Amy Liptrot

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By Jamie Stewart

Amy Liptrot was born in Orkney, a group of islands in the north of Scotland, between the North Sea and the Atlantic. Her father lives with bi-polar disorder and is prone to manic episodes, her mother a born-again Christian. Amy moves away from her family home to London, a city as wild as the islands that she grew up on, but for different reasons. Spending a decade or so in London, she leaves behind her a trail of aborted relationships and menial jobs and eventually descends into alcohol addiction. In her book The Outrun, she describes frankly how a series of events led to a complete lack of control of her own life.

Needing change, Amy leaves London behind. She returns to Orkney and finds herself increasingly obsessed with nature – birds and sheep, tides and astronomy. Becoming more and more connected to the wildlife that surrounds her, she gets a job at an RSPB reserve, searching for the elusive corncrake, and adopts the moniker The Corncrake Wife.

She spends her Saturday mornings in the North Sea with the Orkney Polar Bear Club, her days roaming the different islands, and her nights looking for the Merry Dancers (the Northern Lights to non-island folk). Island life becomes integral to her recovery. However, the beauty and danger of the Isles don’t offer Liptrot solace immediately. Her journey is punctuated throughout with candid descriptions about her persistent cravings.

The Outrun is more than just a memoir. It is a touching story about one woman’s journey to recovery, and how her connection with nature aids her convalescence. She uses this strong connection with nature to her advantage, mapping her own history onto the islands of Orkney. In a chapter entitled ‘Personal Geology’, she writes: “The islands’ headlands rise above the sea, like my limbs in the bathtub, my freckles are famous landmarks and my tears rivers. My lovers are tectonic plates and stone cathedrals.”

What struck me most was Liptrot’s unwavering candour. She writes in a way that dissolves the stigma that is often attached to alcohol addiction, and focuses on healing. The Outrun is a perfect read for anyone who, like Liptrot, finds themselves born or living on the edge.


About the author / 

Jamie Stewart

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