The Runaway Wife
by Elizabeth Birkelund
Three beautiful French sisters entrust an American hiker with the mission of rescuing their mother high in the Alps.
But what if she doesn’t want to be found?
Recently fired from his high-power finance job and dumped by his fiancée, 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.
Whose breathing did he hear… How amazing it was to be privy to a stranger’s sleep, something that belonged solely to that person.
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.
Even when she wasn’t moving, she vibrated like a flame dancing in the wind.
One of her dull-gray eyes was open, the other shut. As you go to death, Jim thought, perhaps there is always one eye turning back toward life.
Upon finishing The Runaway Wife, I was in a state of indecision on how I felt about the book. I had vacillated in my opinion of the story while reading, although overall I found it thoughtfully written, insightful, and observant. I also found it somewhat exasperating, and then there is also this unsettling yet elusive quality for which I just couldn’t settle on an apt descriptor without an in-depth internal analysis of my personal reading preferences. I was fascinated by the interesting and unpredictable nature of the characters, yet I was ultimately disappointed with them… but then, if I am being realistic, people disappoint each other all the time in the real world. The setting and premise were well out of my wheelhouse as the bulk of the adventure was a fool’s errand taking place on the slopes of the Swiss Alps (by a novice mountain climber), and also involved the power and facade of a philandering French politician. Although, politics tend to be slimy and filled with philandering beasts in any culture… it certainly does in the current American political landscape.
After a glass, or two, of wine and considerable inner musing in a hot bubble bath with my favorite Mozart disc playing, I concluded that my main complaint would be the lack of closure to the tale, as the story ended with the characters still in flux after making major life changes. I didn’t get my coveted HEA, or a sense of closure or completion.
Lesson learned – I should not be so rigidly focused on the expectation of having all the loose ends tied up for me, or in achieving a positive end result, or in having a neat and tidy sense of closure; as even with fictional characters, their life can still go on in an unclear direction – and so should mine.
About Elizabeth Birkelund
Elizabeth Birkelund is the author of one other French-inspired novel, The Dressmaker. As a freelance magazine journalist, Elizabeth was the personal finance columnist for Cosmopolitan and wrote for more than fifteen years for Working Woman, Self, and Glamour, among other publications. She lives in New York City.
Connect with Elizabeth on Facebook.