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Emily Aulenbach is an idealistic young lawyer who once dreamed of representing victims of corporate abuse. Instead, she now spends her days in a cubicle arguing victims of corporate greed out of their rightful claims. She no longer connects with much in her life, period, with the exception of three things—her computer, her BlackBerry, and her watch. One day, she snaps. Without telling anyone where she is going, she heads north to Bell Valley, New Hampshire, the small town where she spent a life-altering summer ...
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Emily Aulenbach is an idealistic young lawyer who once dreamed of representing victims of corporate abuse. Instead, she now spends her days in a cubicle arguing victims of corporate greed out of their rightful claims. She no longer connects with much in her life, period, with the exception of three things—her computer, her BlackBerry, and her watch. One day, she snaps. Without telling anyone where she is going, she heads north to Bell Valley, New Hampshire, the small town where she spent a life-altering summer during her college years. There, she will set out to forge new relationships with lovers, long-lost friends and the person she once wanted to become.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

One day, 32-year-old Emily Aulenbach leaves her New York law office early, drives home, packs her things, and drives nonstop to a seaport town in New Hampshire. On the surface, her spontaneous exit seems to have no single cause. She loves Manhattan, adores her husband James, and knows that most lawyers would beg for her job at the prestigious firm. None of those lures, however, suffice for the almost indefinable something that pulls Emily back to the place where she once broke her heart and ruined her friendship with her closest friend. A soul-tugging romance by a proven master of the craft.

Publishers Weekly
Delinsky nails it in her trademark latest (after Not My Daughter), a captivating and moving story about a woman who's had enough of her life and wants a fresh start. Emily Aulenbach, a hardworking New York City lawyer married to another hardworking lawyer, graduated from law school an idealist, but now works on behalf of big, soulless corporations. Fed up, she walks out of the office one morning, packs a bag, and takes off for the small New Hampshire town where she'd spent a life-changing summer 10 years earlier, breaking contact with her best friend, Vicki Bell—now married and running an inn in the same town—when Vicki's brother, Jude, Emily's first big love, had dumped her. Emily runs to Vicki for sanctuary, and, wouldn't you know it, Jude reappears, somewhat complicating things as Emily figures out what to do with her life, career, and marriage to James, whom she truly loves. But when one of Vicki's employees ends up needing legal help, it's the catalyst for everything to click into place. Delinsky keeps the story moving with some nice twists on a familiar plot, rich characterizations, and real-feeling dilemmas that will keep readers hooked. (July)
Library Journal
Frustrated with her life, 32-year-old Manhattan lawyer Emily Aulenbach impulsively decides to take a personal and professional leave of absence, much to the dismay of her husband, boss, sister, parents, and friends. She gets in the car and drives, eventually reaching the New Hampshire town where she spent one college summer. Although this town is loaded with good and bad memories, she feels it's the only place where she can figure out what kind of life and work she wants to pursue. A former lover, an animal refuge, and a woman in need of legal advice are distractions that help Emily figure it all out. VERDICT Best-selling author Delinsky's (Not My Daughter) latest novel features a scenario many readers likely fantasize about, but it also has a protagonist whose actions may induce mixed feelings. While Emily puts her happiness first and escapes the life she no longer wants, her selfishness affects others, especially her husband. Ultimately, this thought-provoking book will be popular summer reading. [See Prepub Alert, 1/9/11.]—Samantha J. Gust, Niagara Univ. Lib., NY
Kirkus Reviews

A corporate attorney leaves her Manhattan cubicle for a small New Hampshire town, where she faces an agonizing choice.

Emily's enervating job at a prestigious law firm is only a higher-paying version of a hectic call center. She sees little of her husband, James, who is immersed in his own 12-hour-a-day struggle to make partner in a similar firm. The couple is too exhausted to enjoy the spoils of their labors assisting corporations to further crush the poor and downtrodden. Their love life is strictly scheduled around Emily's fertile periods, to no avail, baby-wise. One day Emily just snaps, runs out on her life and heads for the last place she remembers feeling relaxed: Bell Valley, where her college roommate's family runs a massive animal shelter, the Refuge. Nothing much has changed in Bell Valley when Emily arrives, other than the fact that her one-time roomie, Vicki, now owns the Red Fox, a B&B. Vicki's brother, Jude, Emily's first love, has been absent for a decade, traveling the world. Emily fled Bell Valley, she thought forever, when Jude broke up with her and impregnated his ex-girlfriend. Emily has received sporadic dispatches from Jude, the last from a crab boat in the Bering Sea. His dreaded return to Bell Valley, accompanied by the coyote that appears to be his spirit guide (and rapidly becomes Emily's), once again discomfits feminine hearts, including Vicki's—she resents Jude for being the prodigal son family matriarch Amelia welcomes home while taking vineyard-toiling Vicki for granted. James, stunned by Emily's defection, is trying to woo her back, but not quite ready to abandon Manhattan. Emily finds contentment in working with rescue cats and pitting her legal skills against power and greed (for a change). An improbable subplot involving Red Fox employee Lee, defrauded of her inheritance, is intended to inject thrills but falls far short of replacing the more essential conflicts Delinsky simply ducks. Arid stretches of boredom ensue.

No escapism here.

From the Publisher

"Delinsky nails it in her trademark latest, a captivating and moving story about a woman who's had enough of her life and wants a fresh start. . . . [She] keeps the story moving with some nice twists on a familiar plot, rich characterizations, and real-feeling dilemmas that will keep readers hooked."—Publishers Weekly

"Escape is another appealing page-turner from a writer who continues to earn her bestseller status."—


“A topical tale that resonates with timeless emotion.” —People, 3½ stars

“Delinsky proves once again why she’s a perennial best-seller with this thought-provoking tale . . . Timely, fresh, and true-to-life.” —Publishers Weekly

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385532723
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 7/5/2011
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Barbara Delinsky
BARBARA DELINSKY has more than thirty million copies of her books in print. She lives with her fam­ily in New England.


Born Ruth Greenberg, and raised in suburban Boston, Barbara Delinsky worked as a sociology researcher in children's services and was a newspaper photographer and reporter before turning to fiction writing full-time. In point of fact, she never intended to pursue a literary career. But, in the early 1980s, a newspaper article profiling three women who successfully balanced home, family, and romance writing caught her attention. Intrigued, she spent months researching and writing her first novel. It sold -- and Delinsky was off and running.

Praised by critics and fans alike for her character driven studies of marriage, parenthood, and friendship, Delinsky is one of a small cadre of successful women writers (including Nora Roberts and Sandra Brown) who started out writing pseudonymous paperbacks for the category romance genre and muscled their way onto the bestseller lists with hardcover escapist fiction. Yet she is candid about the hard work involved and insists there's no tried-and-true formula that converts automatically to easy money. As if to prove her own point, Delinsky works from eight in the morning to about seven at night, writing in the office above the garage in her Newton, Massachusetts home; doing research; handling interviews; or -- her least favorite part of the job -- touring the country making author appearances.

Over the decades Delinsky has written dozens of novels that have landed on The New York Times bestseller list, including Twilight Whispers (1988), For My Daughters (1994), Three Wishes (1997), Flirting with Pete (2003), and Family Tree (2007). In 2001, she published her first nonfiction title, Uplift: Secrets from the Sisterhood of Breast Cancer Survivors. A cancer survivor herself, she has earmarked all the profits from the sale of this book to benefit breast cancer research.

Good To Know

When she isn't writing, one of Delinsky's favorite pastimes is kayaking.

She gets some of her best ideas in the shower. "It's a little harder to write ideas down there," she wrote to fans on her web site, "but I've been known to yell something out to my husband, who does it for me!"

The family cat, Chelsea, is named after her 1992 novel The Passions of Chelsea Kane.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Billie Douglass, Bonnie Drake; born Ruth Greenberg
    2. Hometown:
      Newton, Massachusetts
    1. Date of Birth:
      August 9, 1945
    2. Place of Birth:
      Boston, Massachusetts
    1. Education:
      B.A. in Psychology, Tufts University, 1967; M.A. in Sociology, Boston College, 1969

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Have you ever woken up in a cold sweat, thinking that you’ve taken a wrong turn and are stuck in a life you don’t want? Did you ever consider hitting the brakes, backing up, and heading elsewhere?

How about disappearing—leaving family, friends, even a spouse—ditching everything you’ve known and starting over again. Reinvent­ing yourself. Rediscovering yourself. Maybe, just maybe, returning to an old lover. Have you ever dreamed about this?

No. Me, neither. No dream, no plan.

It was just another Friday. I awoke at 6:10 to the blare of the radio, and hit the button to silence it. I didn’t need talk of politics to knot up my stomach, when the thought of going to work did that all on its own. It didn’t help that my husband, already long gone, texted me at 6:15, knowing I’d have my BlackBerry with me in the bathroom.

Can’t make dinner tonight. Sorry.

I was stunned. The dinner in question, which had been on our calendar for weeks, involved senior partners at my firm. It was impor­tant that James be there with me.

I typed. Why not?

I received his reply seconds before stepping into the shower. Gotta work late, he said, and how could I argue? We were both lawyers, seven years out of law school. We had talked about working our tails off now to pay our dues, and I had been in total agreement at fi rst. Lately, though, we had seen little of each other, and it was getting worse. When I pointed this out to James, he got a helpless look in his eyes, like, What can I do?

I tried to relax under the hot spray, but I kept arguing aloud that there were things we could do if we wanted to be together—that love should trump work—that we had to make changes before we had kids, or what was the point—that my coyote dreams had begun when I started getting letters from Jude Bell, and though I stuffed those letters under the bed and out of sight, a tiny part of me knew they were there.

I had barely left the shower when my BlackBerry dinged again. No surprise. My boss, Walter Burbridge, always e-mailed at 6:30.

Client wants an update,
he wrote. Can you do it by ten?

Here’s a little background. I used to be an idealist. Starting law school, I had dreamed of defending innocent people against corpo­rate wrongdoing, and by graduation was itching to be involved in an honest-to-goodness class action lawsuit. Now I am. Only I’m the bad guy. The case on which I work involves a company that produces bottled water that was tainted enough to cause irreparable harm to a frightening number of people. The company has agreed to compen­sate the victims. My job is to determine how many, how sick, and how little we can get away with doling out, and I don’t work alone. We are fifty lawyers, each with a cubicle, computer, and headset. I’m one of five supervisors, any of whom could have compiled an update, but because Walter likes women, he comes to me.

I’m thirty-two, stand five-six, weigh one-twenty. I spin some­times, but mostly power walk and do yoga, so I’m in shape. My hair is auburn and long, my eyes brown, my skin clear.

We gave them an update Monday,
I typed with my thumbs.

Get it to me by ten,
he shot back.

Could I refuse? Of course not. I was grateful to have a job at a time when many of my law school friends were wandering the streets looking for work. I was looking, too, but there was nothing to be had, which meant that arguing with the partner-in-charge of a job I did have was not a wise thing to do.

Besides, I mused as I slipped on my watch, if I was to put together an update by ten, I had to make tracks.

My BlackBerry didn’t cooperate. I was hurrying to finish my makeup when it began making noise. The wife of one of James’s partners wanted the name of a pet sitter. I didn’t have a pet, but could certainly ask a friend who did. Thinking that I would have had a dog or cat in a minute if our lifestyle allowed it, I was zipping on a pair of black slacks when another e-mail arrived. Why won’t sharks attack lawyers? said the subject line, and I instantly clicked delete. Lynn Fal­lon had been in my study group our first year in law school. She now worked with a small firm in Kansas, surely having a kinder, gentler experience than those of us in New York, and she loves lawyer jokes. I do not. I was feeling bad enough about what I do. Besides, when Lynn sent a joke, it went to dozens of people, and I don’t do group e-mail.

Nor do I do anything but blue blouses, I realized in dismay as I stood at the closet. Blue blouses were professional, my lawyer side argued, but I was bored looking at them. Closing my eyes, I chose a blouse—any blouse—and was doing buttons when the BB dinged again.

Okay, Emily,
wrote my sister. You booked the restaurant, but you haven’t done music, photography, or flowers. Why are you dragging your heels?

Kelly, it is 7 am,
I wrote back and tossed the BlackBerry on the bed. I turned on the radio, heard the word “terrorism,” and turned it off. I was brushing my hair back into a wide barrette when my sister’s reply arrived.

Right, and in two minutes I have to get the kids dressed and fed, then do the same for me so I can get to work, which is why I’m counting on you for this. What’s the problem?

This party is over the top,
I typed back.

We agreed. You do the work, I pay.

Mom doesn’t want this,
I argued, but my sister was relentless.

Mom will love it. She only turns 60 once. I need help with this, Emily. I can’t hear myself think when I get home from work. If you had kids you’d know.

It was a low blow. Kelly knew we were trying. She knew we had undergone tests and were doing the intensive-sex-at-ovulation routine. She didn’t know that I’d gotten my period again this month, but I couldn’t bear to write the words, and then—ding, ding, ding—my in-box began filling. It was 7:10. I had to get to work. Burying the BlackBerry in the depths of my purse so that I wouldn’t hear the noise, I grabbed my coat and took off.

We lived in Gramercy Park in a condo we could barely afford, and though we didn’t have a key to the park itself, we had passed Julia Roberts on the street a time or two. I saw nothing today—no Julia, no pretty brownstones, no promising June day—as I hurried to Fifth Avenue, sprinting the last half block to catch the bus as it pulled up at the curb.

I was at my desk at 7:45, and I wasn’t the first. A low drone of voices already hovered over the cubicles. I awoke my computer and logged in, then logged in twice more at different levels of database security. Waiting for the final one, I checked my BlackBerry.

Are you going to yoga?
asked the paralegal who worked two floors below me and hated going to yoga alone. I would be happy going alone, since it meant less chatter and more relaxation, which was the whole point of yoga. But if I had to go home to change before the firm dinner, yoga was out. Not tonight, I typed.

Colly wants Vegas,
wrote a book group friend. Colleen Parker was getting married in September, and though I had only known her for the two years I’d been in the group, she had asked me to be a brides­maid. I would be one of a dozen, paying three hundred dollars each to wear matching dresses. And now a bachelorette party in Vegas? I was thinking the whole thing was tacky, when I spotted the next note.

Hey, Emily,
wrote Ryan Mcfee. Ryan worked one cubicle down, two over. Won’t be in today. Have the flu. Don’t want to spread it around.

This should have been important. It meant one man-day of lost work. But what was one more or less in a huge cubicle room?

Logged in now, I set to gathering Walter’s information. It was 7:50. By 8:25 I had a tally of the calls we’d received from last week­end’s newspaper ads—and I could understand why our client was worried. The number of claimants was mounting fast. Each had been rated on a ten-point scale by the lawyer taking the call, with tens being the most severely affected and ones being the least. There were also zeros; these were the easiest to handle. When callers tried to cash in on a settlement with proof neither of harm nor of having ever pur­chased the product, they stood out.

The others were the ones over which I agonized.

But statistics were impersonal and, in that, relatively painless. I updated the figures on how many follow-ups we had done since Monday, with a numerical breakdown and brief summaries of the claims. At 8:55 I e-mailed the spreadsheet to Walter, logged in the time I’d spent making it, shot a look at my watch, and dashed down­ stairs for breakfast. Though I passed colleagues in the elevator, being competitors in the game of billable hours, we did little more than nod.

Going from the thirty-fifth floor to the ground and up again took time, so it wasn’t until 9:10 that I was back at my desk with a donut and coffee. By then the cubicles were filled, the tap of computer keys louder, and the drone of voices more dense. I had barely washed down a bite of donut when the phone began to blink. Hooking the earpiece over my head, I logged in on my time sheet, pulled up a clear screen on my computer, and clicked into the call.

“Lane Lavash,” I answered, as was protocol with calls coming in on the toll-free lines listed in our ads. “May I help you?”

There was silence, then a timid “I don’t know. I got this number from the paper.”

Frauds were confident. This woman sounded young and unsure. “Which paper?” I asked gently.

“The, uh, the Telegram. In Portland. Maine.”

“Do you live in Portland?” I readied my fingers to enter this information.

“No. I was there with my brother last weekend and saw the ad. I live in Massachusetts.”

I dropped my hands. Massachusetts was prime Eagle River dis­tribution area. We’d received calls from as far away as Oregon, from people who had been vacationing in New England during the time the tainted water was on sale. Strict documentation of travel was required for these claims, well before we looked at documentation of physical harm.

I cupped my hands in my lap. “Do you have cause for a claim against Eagle River?”

Her voice remained hesitant. “My husband says no. He says that these things just happen.”

“What things?”


I hung my head. This was not what I wanted to hear, but the din of voices around me said that if not this woman, someone else would be getting pieces of the Eagle River settlement. Miscarriage was definitely one of the “harms” on our list.

“Have you had one?” I asked.


I entered that in the form on my screen, and when the words didn’t appear, retyped them, but the form remained blank. Knowing that I wouldn’t forget this, and not wanting to lose the momentum of the call, I asked, “Recently?”

“The first one was a year and a half ago.”

My heart sank. “Had you been drinking Eagle River water?” Of course she had.


“Can you document that?” I asked in a kind voice, though I felt cold and mean.

“Y’mean, like, do I have a receipt? See, that’s one of the reasons my husband didn’t want me to call. I pay cash, and I don’t have receipts. My husband says I should’ve made a connection between the water and the miscarriage back then, but, like, bottled water is always safe, right? Besides, we were just married and there was other stuff going on, and I figured I was miscarrying because it wasn’t the right time for me to be pregnant.” Her voice shrank. “Now it is, only they say there’s something wrong with the baby.”
My mind filled with static. I tried to remember the company line. “The Eagle River recall was eighteen months ago. The water has been clean since then. It wouldn’t harm your baby.”

I heard a meek half-cry. “The thing is, we try to buy in bulk because it’s cheaper that way. So we had a couple of twenty-fours in the basement and kind of forgot about them. Then I got pregnant, and my husband lost his job, and money was really tight, so I saw the water and thought I was doing good by using what we had instead of buying fresh. I didn’t know about the recall.”

“It was in all the newspapers.”

I don’t read newspapers,
the ensuing silence said. “Newspapers cost money.”

“So does bottled water.”

“But the water from the tap tastes so bad. We thought of putting a filter on, but that costs more than the bottled water, and it’s not like we own this place.”

“Maybe your tap water is tainted,” I said, playing to script. “Have you asked your landlord to test it?”

“No, because my husband drinks it, and he’s healthy. I’m the only one with the problem, and I only drink bottled water. I noticed your newspaper ad because I always drink Eagle River.” Her voice was a whispered wail. “They say the baby won’t be right, and my husband wants to get rid of it, and I have to make a decision, and I don’t know what to do. This sucks.

It did suck. All of it.

“I don’t know what to do,” she repeated, and I realized she wanted my advice, but how could I give that? I was the enemy, an agent for the company whose product had caused a deformity in her child. She should have been yelling at me, calling me the most coldhearted per­son in the world. Some of them did. There had been the man whose seamstress wife had developed tremors in her hands and was perma­nently disabled. Or the woman whose husband had died—and yes, he had a pre-existing medical condition, but he would have lived longer if he hadn’t drunk tainted water.

The names they called me weren’t pretty, and though I told myself not to take it personally, I did. Thinking that this job definitely sucked, I swiveled sideways and lowered my eyes. “I’m Emily. What’s your name?”

“Layla,” she said.

I didn’t try to enter it on my form. Nor did I ask for a last name. This had become a personal discussion. “Have you talked with your doctor about options?”

“There are only two,” she said, sounding frightened. I guessed her to be in her early twenties. “My mother says I shouldn’t kill my baby. She says God chose me to protect an imperfect child, but she isn’t the one who’ll be paying medical bills or maybe losing a husband because of it.” Losing a husband . . . Not on the formal list of “harms” but a plausible side effect, one that had to resonate with any married woman in this room.

Or maybe not. We didn’t talk about this—didn’t talk about much of anything, because we were being paid by the hour to do our work, and time sheets would only allow for a lapse or two. What I was doing now was against the rules. I was supposed to stick to business and limit the time of each call. But Layla was talking quickly, going on about the bills that were piling up, and I couldn’t cut her off. Somewhere in the middle of it, she said, “You’re a good person, I can tell by your voice, so my husband was wrong when he said I’d be talking to a robot. He also said we’d have to sign away our lives if we got money for this. Would we?”

I was stuck on good person, echoing so loudly through my fraudu­lent soul that I had to consciously refocus at the end. “No, Layla. You’d have to sign a release saying that you won’t further sue Eagle River, its parent company, or distributors, but that’s it.”

She was silent for a beat. “Are you married?”


“With kids?”

“Someday.” I was on the clock, but I couldn’t return to the claim form.

“I’m desperate for them,” Layla said in her very young voice. “I mean, you work for a law firm. I work in a hardware store. Kids would give my life meaning, y’know?”

“Absolutely,” I replied just as a sharp voice broke in.

“What’s happening here, Emily?” Walter asked. “No one’s work­ing.”

I swiveled toward him, then rose from my chair enough to see over the cubicle tops. Sure enough, our team stood in scattered clus­ters, most looking now at Walter and me.

“Computers are down,” called one. “Forms are frozen.”

Walter eyed me. “Did you report this?”

I pushed my mouthpiece away. “I hadn’t realized there was a problem. I’m working with a claimant.” Adjusting the mouthpiece, I returned to Layla. “There’s a technical glitch here. Can I call you back in a few?”

“You won’t,” she said defeatedly. “And anyway, I don’t know if I should do this.” “You should,” I advised, confident that Walter wouldn’t know what I was saying. She gave me her number. I wrote it on a Post-it and ended the call.

“He should what?” Walter asked.

“Wait half an hour before going out, so that I can call her back.” I buzzed our technology department.

“Are you encouraging people to file claims?” Walter asked.

“No. I’m listening. She’s in pain. She needs someone to hear what she’s saying.”

“Your job is to document everyone who calls and tell them what medical forms we’ll need if they want a piece of the pie. That’s it, Emily. You’re not being paid to be a shrink.”

“I’m trying to sort through claims so that we know which are legit and which aren’t. This is one way to do it.” When I heard a familiar voice in my headset, I said, “Hey, Todd, it’s Emily. We’re having trouble up here.”

“Already on it.” He clicked off. I relayed the message to Walter, who wasn’t mollified. “How long ’til we’re running again?”

It was 9:40. I figured we’d lost twenty minutes, thirty max. “Todd is fast.”

Walter leaned closer. A natty dresser, he never looked ruffled. The only things that ever gave him away were his gray eyes and his voice. Those eyes were rocky now, the voice low and taut. “I’m under pres­sure, Emily. We were named to manage this settlement only after I personally assured the judge that we could do it quickly and eco­nomically. I can’t afford to have my lawyers wasting time holding hands. I’m counting on you to set an example; this is important for your career. Get the facts. That’s it.” With a warning look, he left.

I should have felt chastised, but all I could think was that if any­one was wasting time, it was the people who called us hoping for help. They wouldn’t get what they deserved; the system was designed to minimize reward. Besides, how did you price out a damaged baby, a ruined life?

I was telling myself not to be discouraged—to keep avoid­ing wine and caffeine and always wash my prenatal vitamins down with good water—when a crescendoing hum came, spreading from cubicle to cubicle as the computers returned to life. I should have been relieved, but to my horror, my eyes filled with tears. Needing a distraction, even something as frivolous as Vegas talk from Colly’s friends, I turned when my BlackBerry dinged. It was James. Maybe coming tonight? I wondered with a quick burst of hope.

Just got a brilliant idea,
he wrote, and for a final minute, still, I believed. The dinner Sunday night? That was his firm’s dinner. I want you to do it up big—new dress, hair, nails, the works. l have to work tomorrow anyway. That would be Saturday, the one day we usually managed a few hours together. A couple of favors? Pick up my navy suit and my shirts. And my prescription. And get cash for the week. Thanks, babe. You’re the best.

I scrolled on, thinking there had to be more, because if that was all, I would be livid.

But that was it. Thanks, babe. You’re the best.

Keyboards clicked, voices hummed, electronics dinged, jangled, and chimed, and still, as I stared at the words, I heard James’s voice. I want you to do it up big—new dress, hair, nails, the works. Like I needed his permission for this?

Suddenly it all backed up in my throat like too much bad food—bad marriage, bad work, bad family, friends, feelings—and I couldn’t swallow. Needing air, I grabbed my purse and, as an afterthought, the Post-it with Layla’s name and number.

Tessa Reid was as close as I came to having a friend in the firm, which was as sad a statement as any. We never socialized outside of work. I did know that she had two kids and two school loans, and that she shared my revulsion for what we did. I saw it in her eyes when she arrived at work, the same look of dread reflected in my own mirror each day.

She lived three cubicles to the right of mine. Ducking in there now, I touched her shoulder. Her earpiece was active, her hands typ­ing. One look at my face and she put her caller on hold.

“Do me a huge favor, Tessa?” I whispered, not for privacy, because, Lord knew, my voice wouldn’t carry over the background din, but because that was all the air I could find. I pressed the Post-it to her desk. “Call this claimant for me? We were talking when the system went down. She’s valid.” I was banking on that, perhaps with a last gasp of idealism. For sure, though, Tessa was the only one in the room whom I could trust to find out.

She was studying me with concern. “What’s wrong?”

“I need air. Do this for me?”

“Of course. Where are you going?”

“Out,” I whispered, and left.

A gaggle of clicks, dings, and murmurs followed me, lingering like smog even when the elevator closed. I made the descent in a back corner, eyes downcast, arms hugging my waist. Given the noise in my head, if anyone had spoken, I mightn’t have heard, which was just as well. What could I have said if, say, Walter Burbridge had stepped in? Where are you going? I don’t know. When’ll you be back? I don’t know. What’s wrong with you? I don’t know.

The last would have been a lie, but how to explain what I was feeling when the tentacles were all tangled up? I might have said that it went beyond work, that it covered my entire life, that it had been building for months and had nothing to do with impulse. Only it did. Survival was an impulse. I had repressed it for so long that it was weak, but it must have been beating somewhere in me, because when the elevator opened, I walked out.

Even at 9:57, Fifth Avenue buzzed. Though I had never minded before, now the sound grated. I turned right for the bus and stood for an excruciating minute in traffic exhaust, before giving up and fl ee­ing on foot, but pedestrian traffic was heavy, too. I walked quickly, dodging others, dashing to make it over the cross street before a light changed. When I accidentally jostled a woman, I turned with an apology, but she had continued on without looking back.

I had loved the crowds when I first came here. They made me feel part of something big and important. Now I felt part of nothing. If I wasn’t at work, others would be. If I bumped into people, they walked on.

So that’s what I did myself, just walked on, block after block. I passed a hot dog stand but smelled only exhaust fumes from a bus. My watch read 10:21, then 10:34, then 10:50. If my legs grew tired, I didn’t notice. The choking feeling had passed, but I felt little relief. My thoughts were in turmoil, barely touched by the blare of a horn or the rattle of the tailgate of a truck at the curb.

Nearing our neighborhood, I stopped for my husband’s suit and shirts, and picked up his prescription, then entered the tiny branch office of our bank. The teller knew me. But this was New York. If she wondered why I withdrew more money than usual, she didn’t ask.

The bank clock stood at 11:02 when I hit the air again. Three minutes later I turned down the street where we lived and, for a hys­terical second, wondered which brownstone was ours. Through my disenchanted eyes, they all looked the same. But no; one had a brown door, another a gray one, and there was my window box, in which primrose and sweet pea were struggling to survive.

Running up the steps, I let myself in, emptied my arms just inside, and dashed straight up the next flight and into the bedroom. I pulled my bag from the closet floor, but paused only when I set it on the bed. What to bring? That depended on where I was going, and I didn’t have a clue.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Reading Group Guide

The questions, discussion topics, and reading list that follow are intended to enhance your reading group's discussion of Escape, by Barbara Delinksy.

1. High salaries help Emily and James tolerate their jobs for a while. How did you react when Emily’s father stressed the importance of being practical and earning a good wage? In your own life, how do you balance financial needs with the quest for a meaningful life?

2. What do you think Jude really wanted from Emily when he began writing letters to her? Why wasn’t he able to commit to her earlier? Would you have been more attracted to Jude or James?

3. Discuss the way the novel addresses the theme of parenting. In her quest for a child, how does Emily’s perception of motherhood change? Why is it difficult for Jude to know how to enter his child’s life? Are there right and wrong reasons for wanting to become a parent?

4. What did Emily’s parents teach her about marriage? How do Emily’s roles as a daughter and sister compare to your roles in your family?

5. As an innkeeper, Vicki has a completely different livelihood from Emily’s. Despite their wounded friendship, what does Vicki help Emily discover about home and a truly comfortable life?

6. How do Emily’s feelings about Jude change throughout the novel? Was she being honest when she told people she did not come back just for him?

7. Healing gradually takes place for many of the characters in Escape. As Emily immerses herself in the animal shelter and in Lee’s dramatic case, what does she discover about her own healing process? Besides legal counsel, what did Lee need in order to heal?

8. In chapter sixteen, we see a comparison between Emily and Jude: she was to her father what Jude was to Amelia, a child rejecting a parent’s dream. What is the best way to discern the best course for our lives? Have you ever had to shed someone else’s plans for you?

9. Emily reaches a tipping point when James cancels on her for an important business dinner but expects her to attend his. How would you have reacted if you had been Emily, or James? At its heart, is Escape also about a war between the sexes?

10. When Emily flees New York, she flees her routine with James as well and creates a new balance of power. What does their story tell us about the keys to a happy marriage?

11. What does the coyote signify to Emily? How does its message shift?

12. Both James and Jude experience major turning points near the end of the novel. When James’s faith in his law firm is shaken, and Jude makes missteps that keep him from being a hero, what sort of men do they become?

13. How does Emily cope with the harsh judgment she received in Bell Valley? What are the pros and cons of her two worlds: Bell Valley versus Manhattan?

14. Barbara Delinsky thanks her fans for providing their ideal escapes in response to a question she posed on Facebook. How would you have responded? Where would you go if you wanted to just pick up one day and disappear?

15. Delinsky is a master at delivering realistic portrayals of ordinary people in extraordinary life dilemmas. How does Emily’s situation compare to another favorite Delinsky novel you’ve read? 

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 160 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 160 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2011

    Review the book

    When I check the reader reviews of a book, I expect to read a review of the book. I do not want to read more complaints about the price of Nook books. I know people are unhappy about the price of Nook books. Fine! Complain! But please do it in another venue and leave the review space for reviews of the book.

    34 out of 49 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 7, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    As with all of Barbara Delinsky tales, the characters are the heart and soul of the novel

    Thirty two years old Emily Aulenbach seems to be living a good life in New York. She loves her husband James deeply and is employed as a lawyer at a prestigious firm where she is highly regarded and her spouse will soon be a partner in his firm. Emily constantly reminds herself she is fortunate. Still as she keeps saying how lucky she is, she goes home and packs. Emily drives away not stopping until she reaches Bell Harbor, New Hampshire.--------------

    A decade ago while at college, she spends a wonderful summer there and became close friends with her Vicki Bell and her brother Jude whom she had a torrid relationship with until he cheated on her. Emily left; severing all ties with the Bell siblings. Now she tries to heal the wounds she caused Vickie. She is staying at Vicki's bed and breakfast while deciding about the rest of her life. She knows what she no longer wants to do, which is returning to the sterile, risk free and friendless life she had in NYC. However, James remains adamant about becoming a partner; a position hetoiled to achieve for years. Their marriage appears doomed.-------------------

    As with all of Barbara Delinsky tales, the characters are the heart and soul of the novel. Escape is no different as gutsy Emily holds the tale together with her desperate flight from Manhattan though she loves and adores James. Fans will root for the couple to find a way to stay together, but it looks doubtful as neither side has room for compromise. Although the climax is simple and realistic, this is a poignant look at lifestyles.--------------

    Harriet Klausner

    26 out of 31 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 9, 2011


    Sadly, I tried to get an idea of what others think about this book and 11 of the 12 reviews were about the price. We get it! If you think it's too expensive, then don't but the book! Quit wasting my time and let us use this venue for its intended purpose.

    14 out of 27 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 11, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Could you walk away from the perfect life you thought you had created?

    Emily can't take another day of answering the phone, sitting in her cubicle, worrying about whether she is doing the right thing by her clients or if the dream she has been chasing has crumbled in her hands. She loves her husband but suspects he may be cheating on her, likes being a lawyer, but hates the type she is practicing and adores her parents but is tired of worrying that she is a disappointment to them.

    One day she decides she has had enough and drives away in her husband's car to figure out if the past is what is stopping her from loving the present and unable to work on a future. Emily reconnects with her college friend, which is yet another relationship she stopped nurturing and finds she cannot live without. But going back to a place that provided peace in the past and calm during the storm may turn out to be a nightmare if the reason she left this little slice of heaven shows up. Everyone has a secret they hold close to their heart and this one broke Emily's heart and she is not looking to repeat any mistakes when the man she is married to has fulfilled her expectations but keeping this secret from her husband is as sinful as the ones she is accusing him of.

    At some point Emily is going to have to face her husband and family, which is not going to be easy. She has to tell them why she ran away but still can't decide when she will be home or how she is going to mesh the life she wants with the life she has and still be able to afford to have a baby.

    The reward for Emily is the joy she receives every time she walks into The Rescue and sees all the animals that have faced much pain and misery than working too many hours and not getting enough sleep.

    Life is never the problem it is living the life that does you in. I bought this book with no idea what it was about because any Barbara Delinsky is a must buy on my list and never question that it will be great. However, this particulate book comes in a time when my life is a mess and what I want more than anything is to go someplace that will stop the craziness and calm my stress. The main character is like every other woman who does not want to throw the life she has away, she wants to make it work and just cannot figure out how. Her husband has his ideas, her parents another and work is what you do to pay for the life you have. This story will hit everyone that reads it regardless of your age because at some point we all want to hit the button that gets us off the bus and lets us walk for a while.

    13 out of 19 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 12, 2011

    Great Delinsky

    This is by far one of my most favorite novels by her.

    12 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 2, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Dull & Predictible

    If you enjoy the kind of drivel that Danielle Steele writes, then you will probably enjoy this book. If you prefer original plot lines and multiple-dimensional characters, then I recommend you find something else.

    I bought this as a mindless vacation read, and struggled to finish reading it because it was so mind-numbingly boring.

    10 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 21, 2011

    It was O.k.

    The impression I got was the here were 2 hard working individuals and one wakes up suddenly unhappy with the life they created one day- thinking there must be more to the meaning of life. Very Eat, Pray, Love to me. I couldn't help but feel that Emily was a bit spoiled - even though she was made to have a difficult relationship with her father - and I can't even fathom just getting up and "running away " one day and my spouse being sort of ok with that.
    Aside from being chock full of grammatical and spelling errors, I found the story line to be fairly predictable and at times annoying in it's simplicity.
    This was my first work by Delinsky and it may very well be my last!

    8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 20, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Okay Read

    I listened to this on audio and just could not get into it. Started off strong - woman needing to escape chaotic NYC life - but it struggled from there. The book was kind of repetitive. The story line with Leigh was interesting but definitely just a side story. Read some of Delinsky's other books like Family Tree or While My Sister Sleeps instead of this one.

    7 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 13, 2011

    Escape From Complaining

    I would like to read a book review to learn about the book rather than Nook purchasers complaining about prices! Save it and go to another site, you are abusing this one. Review a book or get out!

    7 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 11, 2011

    good book

    I just read 2 chapters and liked it, If the whole book is as good as the beginning then it willbe terrific,

    5 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 5, 2011


    I usually like most of Barbara Delinsky's books but this is not one of my favorite ones. It wasn't as interesting as some of her other books that I have read. I would recommend it but not one of her better ones.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 26, 2011

    more from this reviewer


    I have read half of the book, just want to finish it because I pay for it. SO far, boring characters, same old escape story... Nothing exciting happening (petting cats, and NYC lawyer believing a coyote live in her, yeah right). Boring.... If its gonna get better???

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 22, 2011


    I have always loved her books but not this one. The whole story bored me. Cannot wait for next book.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 20, 2012

    Worth reading

    I experianced this as an audiobook and really enjoyed it. The characters are well developed and the reader truly experiances their emotions and understands the struggles and growth each goes through even if they don't act/react typically.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 24, 2011

    Very enjoyable read

    I have always enjoyed Barbara Delinsky's writing and this novel was no exception it was a great read.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 27, 2011

    Thought provoking.

    This book can be tough going at times; it is not a quick read. When you finish, you have something to think about. It is one of those books you appreciate more after reading, than during the reading process. Regarding Nook. If price is your issue, use the library or go to second hand book stores. If your friend has a Nook, you can share books.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 26, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Does life ever bring you to a point, that you are ready to escape? Then this is a must read for you!

    Have you ever woken up in a cold sweat thinking you're stuck in a life you don't want? Did you ever consider disappearing - leaving family, friends, even a spouse - ditching everything you've ever known and starting over again? Maybe, just maybe, even returning to an old lover?

    That's how Emily Aulenbach begins the story of her escape: escape from a workaholic husband she rarely sees, an overpriced New York City apartment that never feels like home, a job where profits, not people are the priority. She doesn't plan her escape; she just walks out of her cubicle, gets behind the wheel of her husband's BMW, shuts off her BlackBerry, and drives away.

    The one thing she can't escape is her past. Lately she's been getting letters from Jude, the fiercely independent man she loved in college. She thought they were soul mates, until she caught him cheating on her. Now she finds herself heading north, toward the New Hampshire town where she and Jude fell in love a decade ago. She doesn't care if she's making another wrong turn. She just knows she needs a new destination.

    My Review:

    In the latest novel by Barbara Delinsky, Escape, is the story we all wish for at different times in our life. Those times where everything reaches a boiling point and we feel completely overwhelmed. Emily acts on those feelings when the law firm she works for has her working more for the benefit of companies instead of the victims in the latest lawsuit over the health effects of drinking water. Feeling more empathy for the victims, she simply gets up and walks away after a very powerful conversation with a woman whose baby is going to have health problems for the rest of its life.

    She and her husband, James have been trying to have a baby for quite some time, and now their love life revolves around an ovulation clock instead of desire and need. When her and James studied law in school, their goals were to make a difference in the lives of people they would work for, but this isn't working for her. James is busy working to make partner this year and she never sees him anymore since he is working nights and weekends now.

    So getting in her husbands BMW, she heads to Bell Valley, a place where she has found peace back in her early childhood, where her best friend Vicki, still lives with her husband Rob, running the Red Fox Inn. Emily hasn't maintained contact with Vicki because she's been striving for success but now feels an overwhelming pull to come back to Bell Valley, back to old friends, back to the woods that can once again heal what's broken in her heart and in her life.

    I received this book compliments of Doubleday Publishers for my honest review and LOVED it. I spent the day reading it when my family gave me a day to myself. It had a healing effect on me as well because I got the opportunity to take a virtual vacation from my own life. I got to feel the calming presence of the walk in the deep, dark woods that Emily takes and sat by the bubbling brook listening to the sounds of the water. I can relate because I personally have felt that pressure of life come to the boiling point but this provides a safe outlet to see where a journey like that might lead. The conclusion of the story is beautiful! Rating this one a must read, I can easily say it earns a 5 out of 5 stars in my personal opinion.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    Barbara Delinsky ESCAPE Loved it...THE CHATEAU by CD SWANSON- loved it!

    Escape is a very good book, and truly worth buying. All of the people griping about prices, don't do it here. This is for the true book lovers who want to see what others have to say. Anyhow, ESCAPE did just that, it allowed me to escape from my "hard nosed job" and all of society today. It was a great book that I highly recommend. THE CHATEAU by CD SWANSON is a shockingly good book for a new author. I loved all the twists and surprising ending. Romance, intrigue, danger, love - perfect book to ESCAPE from life. Two of the better books I have read this summer!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 18, 2011


    I loved ever minute of it. Its a good read!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 24, 2012

    Boring Book by this Author

    This book was so boring and the main character was so self-absorbed that I could barely finish it. How nice of her to just take off from her job and leave her husband! He was too nice about the whole thing. Predictable and nothing exciting happened, other than the Lee situation, which wasn't really that great.

    I was disappointed because I have read many of her books - and they were all very good.

    I will give her another chance with her next one. If you are a Delinksy fan, pass on this one and read: The Secret Between Us, While My Sister Sleeps and Not My Daughter.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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