“Displacement,” the recent novel by Anne Stormont, brings us close to a woman in crisis. Rachel’s son has died in combat in Afghanistan. That tragedy has spun her life out of control. She is recently divorced. Her daughter, Sophie, is estranged from her. And, now, with her own mother’s death, Rachel feels cast adrift with a loss of self and purpose. She feels utterly displaced. Perhaps one negative form of displacement can be countered with a positive form of displacement. And so Rachel decides to awaken her Jewish roots and make a pilgrimage to Israel. But not before she’s put her affairs in order at the small family sheep farm in rural Scotland. And not before her she meets an intriguing new man, Jack. So much going on in the life of someone who felt at the end of her rope!
I love fiction that brings me into the lives of vivid characters, especially from different backgrounds and cultures. That is what drew me into Stormont’s novel. It is on that first night back on the family farm that Rachel nearly drowns during a torrential storm and flood. And it is Jack who saves her. If Rachel’s life had been more in balance, this could have been the start of a new relationship for her. However, Rachel is in dire need of meaning in her life. And so off she goes to Israel. It wasn’t as if Jack was exactly available either but, whatever the case, Rachel is following an internal flood of turmoil that won’t release her anytime soon. And, in Israel, Rachel will find many opportunities to be out of her element and test herself.
Stormont has an assured way of rendering scenes and creating engaging exchanges between characters. It is easy to get swept up in Rachel’s journey. I share here with you a scene midway deep into the novel as Rachel navigates Israel and a potential new beau:
“Now, come and see the view.” Eitan, grabbed me by the hand. He led me first to the western edge of the crag’s flat summit. There below was the Judean Desert with its terraced golden hills. Then we looked east out to the Dead Sea and I was surprised at the water’s colourful beauty. To the south, Eitan pointed out how the crag’s tail led eventually to the Syrian edge of the African rift valley.
“Enough!” I said, laughing. “I can’t take in any more. This place is amazing!”
“Better than home?”
“Hmm, I don’t know about that. We have some ancient and very bloody sites too, even just in my tiny patch.”
“Ah, yes, your island–Skye?”
“Yes, Skye.” I was caught by a sudden twinge of emotion. Was it homesickness? But homesickness for what exactly? I wasn’t sure. I pushed it away.
Stormont favors a straightforward naturalism to her narrative that she handles quite well. One layer builds upon another. We get to see our protagonist Rachel Campbell at her worst, at her best, and everything in between. It is a pleasure to see where she goes and what she makes of it. All things considered, I would welcome another book on the next journey that Rachel takes.
“Displacement” is a 352-page novel available in print or on Kindle at Amazon right here.