Review: A Line Made by Walking, by Sara Baume

This review originally ran in Shelf Awareness for Readers. Reprinted here with permission.

A Line Made by Walking, Sara Baume's second novel, takes its title from a 1967 artwork by Richard Long. He walked back and forth in a straight line across a field and photographed the resulting flattened path of grass--a testament to Long's existence. In Baume's novel, Frankie, a young woman struggling with mental illness and an unsettling shift toward adulthood, attempts to find her place in the world--and prove that place and her existence in it have meaning. Even the mud on the stoop left by her boots is comforting in its own way: "so I know I must exist after all--that I must still be here." 
Baume (Spill Simmer Falter Wither) tells Frankie's story in a series of vignettes and introspections that read more like personal essays than a traditional novel. Though the story presses forward through time, with Frankie having a breakdown in her Dublin flat before moving to the countryside to live in her grandmother's bungalow in search of solitude, the narrative is interrupted with thoughts on art, observations about the natural world and reflections on happiness (and unhappiness). These interruptions make Frankie's story as scattered as her thoughts, though Baume weaves it together in a way that feels poignant and reflective, not disjointed. A Line Made by Walking is a quiet, meditative, beautiful story of one young woman's struggles with mental illness and adulthood, and her search for meaning. In Frankie's heartbreaking but hopeful story, Baume perfectly captures the disquietude of not knowing one's purpose in life--but persisting in searching for it.

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