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To the Back of Beyond by Peter Stamm

To the Back of Beyond (2016)

by Peter Stamm

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A family returns from a vacation to their home in Switzerland, and after putting their kids to bed, the father and husband Thomas simply walks away from the house leaving his wife Astrid and two children behind. The short novel alternates with scenes of Thomas hiking across the mountains and Astrid trying to continue her life and waiting for his return. This is not the first book I've read about a man leaving his family behind which is apparently some male fantasy I don't share. This is a well-written book, but not one I can really review because it depresses and infuriates me so much. ( )
  Othemts | Dec 24, 2018 |
This short novel describes the lives of a married Swiss couple after the husband walks away from the home one evening. As days and weeks go by, he wanders around the country on foot while she copes with her children, family and police and tries to decide whether or not to pursue her husband or wait for him to return. Not much more of the very understated plot can be said without giving it away. The book has a philosophical feel about it and in general left me feeling uninvolved. I couldn't relate to any of the characters and found many of their actions strange. The wife, who doesn't even realize the husband is missing for a day or so, assumes her husband has just walked away for a while (maybe it's an American thing, but how many wives in a loving, settled marriage would just assume this and wait for a few days before contacting the police?) The husband seems to have no goal in mind and is just, well, wandering. I can sort of imagine someone just "walking away" (who hasn't dreamed of doing just that once or twice?). But here the husband just wanders aimlessly and the wife goes through life somewhat aimlessly, and, well, there's no passion. So, not my cup of tea. ( )
1 vote auntmarge64 | May 5, 2018 |
A man suddenly decides to leave his wife and two children, and starts walking. This is an interesting idea, but I think it was either not really developed as far as it could have been - or else I wasn't able to really understand the points the author was making. In either case, the books left me slightly dissatisfied. I heard the author interviewed on the BBC's "Books and Authors" podcast, and I liked what he said, but I think I should go back and listen again to see if I can better come to grips with this story. As things are now, I feel the remaining family weren't really troubled enough by the father's mysterious disappearance, and also the father himself didn't seem to think enough about what he had done. On the other hand, what this story did capture was the ambivalence felt by everyone involved. . . the sense that maybe we are all fairly dispensable, even within our own family? ( )
  oldblack | Feb 9, 2018 |
Thomas and Astrid, and their two young children, have returned to their lovely Swiss home from what seems to have been a wonderful vacation. The couple are enjoying a few quiet, twilight moments together with a glass of wine and quiet talk out in front of the house before Astrid heads inside to put the children to bed. Indeed, all seems peaceful and perfect. It is this lovely moment that Thomas puts down his wine, pauses for just a moment, and then walks away…with just what he has on him.

And it is at this moment that the reader gets pulled into this little novel to a degree one might not be pulled into most. Even now you are asking, where did he go? After we stop asking questions, we become judge and jury, before some of us–perhaps the women readers—may question the author’s choices in regards to the gender roles.

Perhaps the story will not affect you so, but I have not been so involved in a novel since Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin. And does it matter at this point how the story ends? ( )
3 vote avaland | Jan 11, 2018 |
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Man Booker Prize nominee Peter Stamm explores in his sixth novel what it means to be in the middle of nowhere, in mind and in body. Happily married with two children and a comfortable home in a Swiss town, Thomas and Astrid enjoy a glass of wine in their garden on a night like any other. Called back to the house by their son's cries, Astrid goes inside, expecting her husband to join her in a bit. But Thomas gets up and, after a brief moment of hesitation, opens the gate and walks out.  No longer bound by the ties of his everyday life--family, friends, work--Thomas begins a winding trek across the countryside, exposed as never before to the Alpine winter. At home, Astrid wonders where he's gone, when he'll come back, whether he's still alive.  Following Thomas and Astrid on their separate paths, To the Back of Beyond becomes ultimately a meditation on the limits of freedom and on the craving to be wanted.… (more)

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