The Beginning Place by Ursula K. LeGuin
Hugh spends his days between his job as a grocery check-out clerk and staying at home with his mother. He isn’t able to go to college because of his mother, isn’t able to afford a car, and has very little socialization or chances to do so. One day he takes a walk. At the edge of the neighborhood he finds a peaceful, secluded wooded area with a stream running through. He is at peace there, feeling he has come home. When he revisits, he discovers the place is different – time runs slowly there. He can visit his private spot for a few hours, yet return home or get to work in less than one.
Irena had discovered Tembreabrezi when she was fourteen or so. It had been her place of refuge through her teen age years. Even now, as she is finally out of her family’s home, she tries to escape there. But often the gate is locked. One day she finds it opens and goes in to visit her friends for one of their weeks (one night in her own time). After the visit, as she is returning home, she sees Hugh sleeping by the stream. She is furious that someone dare intrude into her private world.
But soon Hugh and Irena are pulled together. There is danger in Tembreabrezi. The inhabitants of the country cannot fight it. But Hugh and Irena can because they are outsiders. They find themselves on a quest that will help them start on a new start for Tembreabrezi – and themselves.
The Beginning Place is a dual-level novel. On the surface it is the story of two young adults (around 20 or so) discovering an alternate world and becoming its rescuers. But underneath, it is their quest to grow up into their own people. They escape into Tembreabrezi, a fantasy land without the day to day problems with their families and friends. They can ignore all the hassles and troubles of their normal lives. Yet by the end, they learn about themselves and find the strength they need to leave the final stages of childhood behind and move into their own responsible adult world.
LeGuin is a master of her craft. The Beginning Place is an enjoyable story with the appeal of fantasy lands, heroes, and important quests. Yet it also shows that we all need to take that step and move into a new, enjoyable life of our own responsibility. The moral isn’t shoved down the reader’s throat, but rather presented as an opportunity to make more of yourself. She is able to make her point and please the reader at the same time.
This hardcopy is out of print. You can check your library or used book store.
Notice: Suggestive dialogue or situations