Book Review – When I Ran Away by Ilona Bannister

First published, 2021

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

The story follows Gigi, a paralegal from Staten Island who suffered a terrible loss as the world watched the cataclysmic events of September 11th. Gigi’s story is told as she drinks wine, smokes, ignores her pizza and watches television in a hotel room, while she thinks about the events that led her to this point in her life.

Having stumbled into a vague acquaintance from the coffee line, Gigi makes her way home to her parents, and new English friend, Harry, proves himself great in a crisis and an all-round good guy.

Years pass, Gigi is a single mother and who should she run into, but the ever-lovely Harry. Thus, they begin their life together which involves relocating, culture shock, the confusion of accents and the difficulty of being a new mother in a strange place. Although their love has lasted, will Gigi be able to forgive Harry for his day-to-day ineptitude, and the lost love he never thought to mention?

I really enjoyed the character of Gigi, and her American friends, the fact that she had to lean so hard on watching The Real Housewives of… series felt like a massive hint that her husband should have picked up on. I got a bit frustrated with Harry but, arguably, he had enough to contend with, balancing his work and family lives.

The writing is astonishing. I was almost in tears by the end of chapter three. There were some lovely observations and a surprising dollop of humour, but all in all, this is a story about love, grief, babies, and loss of self. I think it’s going to stay with me for a very long time.

An amazing debut novel.