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  1. Book ImageThe Outrun: A Memoir

    Amy Liptrot

    “It’s wild writing: sexy, unguarded, raw, and ardent … highly recommended.”—The Millions

Discussion Questions

  1. In the first chapter of The Outrun, Amy Liptrot describes her family’s land as “the furthest reaches of a farm, only semi-tamed, where domestic and wild animals co-exist and humans don’t often visit so spirit people are free to roam.” Does this description clarify the book’s title? How does it, together with her prologue, set up her memoir’s narrative and themes?
  2. Liptrot occasionally reflects on her father’s mental illness and personal habits and compares herself to him. At one point she states, “I have become my father.” Do you think this is true? How does she characterize him and herself?
  3. The wild nature of Orkney sweeps literally into the residents’ domestic spaces. How does this impact their lives, both physically and emotionally?
  4. Liptrot writes, “The energy of waves, carried across the ocean, changes into noise and heat and vibrations that are absorbed into the land and passed through the generations.” Does she mean this literally or figuratively? In what ways is the wild landscape a metaphor for her father’s mental illness and her own?
  5. We learn that the Orcadian way to ask where someone is from is to inquire, “Where do you belong?” Liptrot feels like both a local and a stranger in her childhood home. What does it mean to belong to Orcadians and in your opinion? Is belonging defined by heritage and origin or do other factors matter? Do you think Liptrot belongs in Orkney? In London? Anywhere?
  6. How does Liptrot describe her time in London? Why does she start drinking, and why does she continue living or “passing time” there as she does, even after her life has fallen apart?
  7. What finally pushes Liptrot into treatment for her alcoholism, and what is her experience in rehab like? How do her experiences compare to those of the other addicts, and what does she learn from interacting with them?
  8. While Liptrot is in London and after she has stopped drinking, businessmen visit the family farm. She asks, “If the farm was sold, what would be there for me? What was next? What was the point of saving my life?” Do you think that returning to the farm saved her life? Would she have been able to stay sober without it?
  9. How does Liptrot’s physical labor on the farm mirror her work restoring herself? How does it contribute to her recovery, and how does it reshape her identity?
  10. Why do you think Liptrot’s first attempt at going home failed?
  11. What attracts people to life on these remote Scottish islands? What drives them away? Do you think outsiders like Liptrot’s parents help conserve traditions and the Orcadian way of life, or do they contribute to their erosion?
  12. Liptrot mentions reading Moby-Dick several times in the memoir. Why does she recount this detail? Does its significance change over the course of the memoir?
  13. Liptrot writes a lot about the nature of islands and even equates London to an island in the center of Britain. She writes, “I want the islands to continue holding me together and keeping me up.” What is special about islands, and why do they hold this power for her? Is it real or imagined?
  14. Over drinks with a friend in London, Liptrot notes, “In the female bluster of mutual reassurance I forgot to say what I felt: that I was scared and that something was about to give.” What does she mean by “the female bluster of mutual reassurance”? Does this observation ring true to you?
  15. Why does Liptrot choose to go to Papay for the winter, even farther north and more isolated? How does her stay affect her? What does she realize about her life in London in comparison?
  16. Liptrot ties her story to the history, mythology, astronomy, geology, agriculture, and traditions of Orkney. How do these “powers greater than [her]self” enhance or distract from her personal narrative? Do you think these forces are more powerful and present in a place like Orkney than in a place like London? Does awareness of these dimensions expand her existence beyond herself and aid her recovery from addiction?
  17. What role does technology play in Liptrot’s secluded life on the islands? How does it help or hinder her rehabilitation?
  18. In trying to explain how she fell into alcoholism, Liptrot reflects on her upbringing and notes that “extremes were normal for me. . . . I was born into dramatic scenes, lived in the landscape of shipwrecks and howling storms, with animal births and death, religious visions, on the edge of chaos.” Is her explanation convincing?
  19. At the end of the memoir, renewable energy companies approach the Orcadian farmers to buy their land. Liptrot is conflicted about this possible future for her family’s farm. Do you think the farmers should sell their land to make room for renewable energy sources?
  20. How does Liptrot describe addiction, and how does it shape her sense of self both during and after her drinking years? How does she change over the course of the memoir?

About Amy Liptrot

Amy Liptrot received the Wainwright Prize for nature writing and the PEN Ackerley Prize for memoir for The Outrun. Formerly a writer for Orkney Today, editor of the Edinburgh Student, an artist’s model, and a trampolinist, she lives in Yorkshire.

Books by Amy Liptrot

  1. Book CoverThe Outrun: A Memoir

    “It’s wild writing: sexy, unguarded, raw, and ardent … highly recommended.”—The MillionsMore