Escaping to somewhere else is a motif in many human lives. Kids dream of escaping childhood, then finally become adults, and spending their adulthood wishing they could escape to times when they were kids dreaming of escaping childhood. I know of many people in my old hometown of New Haven who dreamed of escaping Connecticut to be in huge big cities, cities with snowy mountains or on West Coast beaches; I know of people in my new hometown of San Diego who dream of being in smaller cities, or somewhere where there’s snow. Sometimes people dream of escape because it’s in their nature — the grass is always greener, etc. But sometimes they sense THEY are at stake if they don’t.
Robert Rippberger’s you-can’t-put-it-down must-read Escape to Anywhere else is about a teenager not yet 18 who senses she needs to get anywhere else to grow, and then realizes with a sense of horror she needs to be anywhere else if she is to survive. Ivey Jane Doede is an incredible character, revealing her unceasingly strong sisterly love for her younger brother, Louie, and her steely determination to make it out of her home where her two abusive and seriously bad-in-multiple ways parents administer a shocking reign of terror. The story is told in Ivey’s point of view, and Rippberger perfectly captures the tone and point of view of a teenager girl. It starts out steadily, scattering tidbits that trigger Ivey’s — and the readers’ — alarm bells. We learn about the cult that moved into the neighboring town that has sucked in her parents, her parents’ increasingly jailable parental behavior and signs that suggest downright e-v-i-l. Could something horrible be going on? As more ominous signs mount and events occur, it’s clear that making that crucial developmental break most young people make to leave their home may have much higher-stakes for Ivey and her beloved younger brother.
The story unfolds with cinematic precision, akin to what you’d expect in a good Stephen King novel. Rippberger has the knack for telling a story not just in terms of perfect plotting but at exactly the right, enticing pace with writing that’s a quintessential example of how reading can create vivd pictures that don’t require a camera. And for good reason: he is a one-time child prodigy who at 16 directed and wrote a feature film that debuted in Boulder, CO to packed, sold out audiences. He won the Dan Eldon Activist Award in 2012 and the Eisner Prize from the University of California at Berkeley, which is the school’s highest honor awarded for creativity. He’s a producer, and director of feature films and documentaries who started his own company, “I Imagine.” His perfectly paced films have already reached millions. Escape to Nowhere is now on track to become a feature film.
Escape to Nowhere is required reading for people of all ages who are fans of gripping stories and gripping movies, and should be at the top of the must-read-reading list even more so for anyone who has ever dreamed of escaping to anywhere else than where they are living, what they are doing, or where they are in life. It reminds us that escaping to anywhere else may mean taking a stand, a wrenchingly tough stand, perhaps an exceedingly dangerous stand and that if we do it, it may mean leaving some people we love — not just a place or situation — behind. Escape to Anywhere could be re-titled: “Ivey Is Us.”
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.