Our Mothers, Ourselves

Book review: Escape by Perihan Magden

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Get swept away into the haunting dreamscape of Perihan Magden’s new novel, Escape, where the line between sanity and insanity is so thin you may find yourself wondering where you stand.

Escape by Perihan Magden

Bambi and her mother are alone and on the run. They move from hotel to hotel, forging relationships with no one and leaving all their possessions behind. Bambi’s mother, however, is adamant that they are not really alone, but they are a “Moon Unit,” revolving endlessly around one another in their own silent world. In each new hotel, they work hard to create a sense of home for themselves redecorating their rooms with new furnishings, knickknacks, toys, dolls, and even pebbles, shells and branches they find along the beach. But sooner than later, they always have to leave and it is hard for Bambi as a young child to understand why.

“If I always look after Mother and protect her, if I always understand Mother, we can survive. ‘Then no one can touch us. No one can catch us.’ That’s what Mother says. On the outside, our life seems strange. But it isn’t. Because we’re on the inside.”

Perihan Magden

The story is lyrically told in the naïve voice of Bambi (whose real name we never learn) as she recounts the strange inner labyrinth of their daily life and her blind devotion to her eccentric mother. We watch with growing alarm as Bambi’s insular world is revealed to us. The novel has both a sense of empty timelessness and an electrifying momentum as we are trapped with this mother-daughter pair in the fever dream of their repetitive days in hotel rooms, while we become increasingly aware of the horrors that are occurring just beneath the surface of Bambi’s narrative.

But despite our growing recognition of the mother’s unspeakable acts, we can’t help but sympathize with her on a certain level because at the heart of Escape is a story about love. The deep, earth-shattering love that arises each time a child is born into this world. The kind of love that spans across countries and languages. The kind of love that could make you give up everything and live on the run forever if it is what you believe you must do to protect your child. A mother's love.

There's a delirium that runs through Escape that gives voice to a shade of insanity we all feel inside. Whether we want to admit it or not, we cannot help but relate to loving something or someone to the point of obsession. The engulfing, co-dependent mother-daughter relationship that Bambi and her mom share is both frightening and frighteningly real.

Escape by Perihan Magden

In an interview with SheKnows, author Perihan Madgen describes the birth of this relationship in the novel, “Mother-daughter relationships are very important to me. Every artist can only have one problem and I am hooked to my relationship with my mother," she says. "I had a weird and engulfing, bad/good relationship with her. My mom separated from my father when I was 10. She was bourgeoisie and suddenly because of her divorce, we became déclassé. We lost our place in society. We went on lots of travels. I was like her project. I was also like her sister/best friend. We were very much in a co-dependent relationship.”

 “The mother in Escape is actually my mother mixed with myself," Magden admits. "My mom was like a borderline personality. She would throw tantrums. But she was not aggressive like the mother in the novel. But, if I was as mentally unstable as the mother in the novel, I would have been as dangerous as her. I merged the sickest sides of my mother and myself to create the character in this book. Motherhood naturally borders on insanity. If you want to be protective, you become overprotective. You can’t help it. It’s so easy to go overboard. I wanted to think about this idea in relationship to myself, my mother and my own daughter.”

{About Perihan Magden}

Born in Istanbul, Perihan Magden has written novels, poetry, and a column in Turkey’s national daily newspaper, Radikal. Her award-winning novels have been translated into eighteen languages, including German, French, Spanish, Italian, Greek, Portuguese, and Dutch. She is an honorary member of British PEN and winner of the Grand Award for Freedom of Speech by the Turkish Publishers Association.

The English translation of Escape is now available from Amazon in paperback and Kindle.

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