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Some Other Town

by Elizabeth Collison

Paperback, 293 pages, HarperCollins, List Price: $14.99 |


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Elizabeth Collison

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NPR Summary

Channeling emotional intensity and infused with a witty, dream-like surrealism, Elizabeth Collison's debut novel explores the unsettling world of Margaret Lydia Benning, which unravels and turns upside down when she falls in love.

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Note: Book excerpts are provided by the publisher and may contain language some find offensive.

Excerpt: 'Some Other Town'

Dawn. I lie breathing hard and stare at the bedroom ceiling. So it has happened again. A white van passes, blasts its horn, disappears just out of sight. And once again I am weightless, midair. That is how always it goes. Although some nights I am driving the truck in the dream, some nights I am driving the van. And sometimes I am in the family's sedan, pale and bawling from the backseat.

Here is how it begins. It is winter, early morning, clear and bitterly cold. There are warnings of windchill, twenty below. Warnings to stay at home.

But I myself am on the way out of town, pushing hard up a hill toward a bridge. Because of the cold, I am the only one out, and it is eerie, alone on that rutty back road. The farmers' fields and the river lie far below, covered in deep new snow. All is stone-still but my truck. So at first, when I spot the white van in my mirror, I am happy that company has arrived.

Then I see the van is coming up fast. It climbs the hill, moves close in, starts to pass. Which is all wrong, I think at the time, that's why they have put yellow lines there. But because whoever it is in the van cannot wait, can't hold on a few yards for the down slope, he passes me just as we reach the bridge, going well over eighty. And he lays on the horn, long and loud.

It takes me by surprise, that combative sound. I turn to look, long enough to see someone large, angry, staring and gesturing at me obscenely. Which is startling and also when my truck hits ice.

Its old tires cannot hold the road. I feel the truck skid, take a sharp turn to the left. And I remember then a car climbing onto the bridge, a blue Volvo from the opposite direction, in the direct path now of where I am spinning.

We come within inches. I grip the wheel. And as my truck slides on by their passenger's side, I look out to see four white faces, turned and pressed to the glass. A family of four, caught in that instant before recognition, captivated, rapt, agog. Until their car goes into a swerve as well, and the four mouths at the glass twist open wide in one blood-chilling family howl.

My truck spins on past, there is no time to look back, to see what becomes of the family. Still skidding, faster, out of control, my truck makes one last sharp arc. And I feel then and hear all at once a loud crack as my truck strikes the bridge side rails. The bridge is old, the rails are wood, they cannot withstand the force. And suddenly my truck is airborne out over the fields below.

I remember then how terribly silent it is. How I can no longer feel the cold or the wind. I look down at the expanse of rolling white snow, I remember a dried stalk of corn jutting through. Then as my truck starts slowly into its dive, and my body grows buoyant and giddy, I see again four floating white faces, eyes open and staring blindly.

But now my truck picks up speed in its great downward arc and I can feel it start to turn over, nose first, then all four wheels to the sky. For a long moment I dangle inverted, gazing into the glint of fresh snow. Then miraculously the truck continues its arc and rotates back to where it has started, several feet closer to ground. We have done a perfect three-sixty midair, well the farmers will never believe this one. And then with a great crash and creaking of ice, the truck slams into the river.

Which is when I begin to cry. Freezing water rushes in all around me. I see it rising, feel the truck going down. Water swirls at my waist, now my chest, my throat. I fight to push open a door, swim free. And gasping for air, I dive under, and awake, and find I can no longer breathe.

This is generally how it goes. Although sometimes no ice appears on the bridge, sometimes my own hand turns the wheel while the family of four in the Volvo sedan watches and cheers from their seats. But always the van shows up then and passes. Always the wind stops, it grows silent. And always I'm suspended in a sky white and endless, and I can see each snowy crystalline star.

But here is the strangest part. Now in the mornings when I wake from the dream, for an instant it's as if there are two of me. The one that will rise and go off to work and come home again to Mrs. Eberline. And the one that awakes from the dream of the van and feels something inside of her rising. Quickening, yearning, keening.

For the life of me, I do not know what it means.

Excerpt from Some Other Town by Elizabeth Collison. Copyright 2015 by Elizabeth Collison. Reprinted courtesy of Harper Perennial, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.