Book of the Week: The Write Escape by Charish Reid

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The Write Escape is a charming vacation story set in a small village in Ireland far removed from all the mod-cons of big city life. It is a place where you can relax into a slower rhythm of life and take each day as it comes without having an agenda bullying you to scurry hither and tither.

Antonia Harper is an ex-editor of a publishing company in Chicago who is working on her dream of becoming a romance writer. In that, The Write Escape is a meta story: a romance about a romance writer. Just days before her much-planned-for, much-dreaded wedding, she discovers that her fiancé has been cheating on her with someone — many someones — and she chucks him and flees to Ireland to nurse her bruised heart.

Dr. Aiden Byrnes is a literature professor in Galway. He is an easygoing fellow, who is content with his career. As a result, he finds himself dumped by his long-term but ambitious girlfriend, who doesn’t think he is motivated enough. When the book opens, Aiden is burned out from his teaching duties and stressed about being behind on his research. He is urged by his mentor to take a break and visit his vacation spot by the ocean. Water was a powerful lure for him, and being near it brings him solace like nothing else. He hopes that it will help him focus and plan for all the research and writing he needs to do to prepare for his upcoming tenure application.   

Antonia feels that as the only black woman in Tully Cross, Ireland, she would stand out. But the warmth and acceptance of the village folk allows her to fully embrace the peace the place is bringing to her. The concentrated admiring focus that her neighbor is bringing into her life is a soothing balm after the debacle of her engagement. All in all, her vacation is a success.

Aiden has never explored the literary world beyond canonized literature, with a capital ‘L,’ so his interest in romance genre fiction comes as a welcome surprise to him. Seeing how open he is to trying something so outside his comfort zone and the fact that he is doing it to understand her passion for writing romance makes him even more endearing to her. She, in turn, energizes his scholarship on African American history. They feed off of each other’s passion for the written word, and in so doing, they develop an unshakeable confidence in themselves and their intellectual abilities.

The Write Escape is tightly focused on interleaving the inner discovery of the individual and the outward discovery of the other person. Reid has endowed her protagonists with the perspicacity of observation that allows them to understand each other despite their short acquaintance. People rarely take unpleasant news in stride, but how each person processes unwelcome remarks is unique to them, and I liked how Reid had her characters explore this. They’re mature people in their thirties who have dealt with ups and downs in life, but they still have things they need to learn and to work on. I liked that Reid doesn’t have her characters too set in their ways and not willing to make concessions to another person, but rather, be humble and exploratory.

Reid, thus, takes two protagonists who are at a low point in their lives, rudderless and sinking, and puts them together in a small place where they cannot but be in each other’s space to see what would happen. The Write Escape then springs from these two people, their psyche and their situation. It is fascinating to watch how they end up supporting each other and building each other up while also shoring up their own inner esteem. The book is escapist and heartwarming all rolled up together.

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