Review

Getting Out

by Gwendolen Gross



Hannah Blue is stuck in a rut. Although she loves her family, they
are high-maintenance. Although she loves her boyfriend, she is not
sure she is as ready for a lifetime commitment as he is. And,
although she loves her work as an interior designer, she is so far
from the top of the corporate ladder that she is often found
fetching coffee for her boss. Hannah, the main character of
Gwendolen Gross's second novel, GETTING OUT, after feeling pulled
in so many directions for so long, has stumbled upon a way out,
literally. When she comes across a photo in the office copy room of
a man joyfully suspended by ropes and pulleys from the side of a
mountain cliff she is enthralled. And when Linda, the photo's
owner, catches her staring at it she invites her to the next
meeting of the Adventurers' Club.

Hannah's parents divorced years ago but she and her siblings still
seem to be suffering because of it. Each, in his or her own way,
struggles with issues of responsibility. Hannah herself is caught
in a conflict over her responsibilities to others and to herself.
Hopelessly unprepared for the physical and mental challenges of the
Adventurers' Club, Hannah sets out to conquer the landscape from
Massachusetts to Washington State. After her father is diagnosed
with a serious illness and her brother's pregnant wife leaves him,
Hannah's need for escape grows even stronger. The other members of
the club welcome her warmly but test her limits and her faith in
herself. And eventually she begins to see in herself the strengths
others find so apparent.

In Hannah, Gross has captured much of the spirit of an
over-stressed and self-critical generation. Without resorting to
predictable characters, setting, or action, she presents a likable
and strong female protagonist. Hannah is someone the reader can
really cheer for. That is not to say that she is not a realistic
character; in fact she is grounded in that all-too-common reality
of being torn between the youthful desire to act selfishly and the
longing to settle down. Gross also skillfully demonstrates the
schism many feel between trying to please family and friends and
wanting to seek out their own path to happiness. Hannah learns that
these agendas must all be carefully balanced to achieve
fulfillment.

GETTING OUT puts a new spin on the adventure story. Hannah's
adventures outdoors (from hiking glaciers to crawling though
underground caverns) reflect the challenges she faces emotionally.
Each conquered mountain is like each resolved dilemma --- a
difficult but necessary passage.

While they are all interesting, not all of the characters in the
novel are as firmly developed as they could be. The Blue family is
written as sweetly dysfunctional, but the problems they face seem
to warrant a more serious tone. Hannah's passion for outdoor
adventuring is understandable; it seems to be very cathartic for
her. However, this is implied rather than clearly stated, and the
reader is never really allowed to examine Hannah's deepest
motivations. Still, the novel is enjoyable and original in many
ways. Gross's appreciation of nature and the lessons it can teach
and her dedication to the integrity of her characters are
obvious.

Reviewed by Sarah Egelman on January 22, 2011

Getting Out
by Gwendolen Gross

  • Publication Date: June 11, 2002
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
  • ISBN-10: 0805068341
  • ISBN-13: 9780805068344