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When I Ran Away: An unforgettable debut about love pushed to its outer limits

Ilona Bannister

8 Reviews

Rated 0

Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)

Gigi is a woman on the edge who has tried desperately all of her life not to be. But when she can no longer outrun her grief and isolation, she finds herself alone in a hotel room, her children left behind, unsure of how, or where, her day will end.

'A furious and tender exploration of motherhood. It's a novel about survival - in the immediate sense, but also how you keep hold of yourself in those small every day moments of erasure' PANDORA SYKES

'Smart, brave and often very funny . . . profoundly moving' SARAH HAYWOOD, author of The Cactus
This morning Gigi left her husband and children.

Now she's watching Real Housewives and drinking wine in a crummy hotel room, trying to work out how she got here.

When the Twin Towers collapsed, Gigi Stanislawski fled her office building and escaped lower Manhattan on the Staten Island Ferry. Among the crying, ash-covered and shoeless passengers, Gigi, unbelievably, found someone she recognised - the guy with pink socks and a British accent - from the coffee shop across from her office. Together she and Harry Harrison make their way to her parents' house where they watch the television replay the planes crashing for hours, and she waits for the phone call from her younger brother that never comes. And after Harry has shared the worst day of her life, it's time for him to leave.

Ten years later, Gigi, now a single mother consumed with bills and unfulfilled ambitions, bumps into Harry again and this time they fall deeply in love. When they move to London it feels like a chance for the happy ending she never dared to imagine. But it also highlights the differences in their class and cultures, which was something they laughed about until it wasn't funny anymore; until the traumatic birth of their baby leaves Gigi raw and desperately missing her best friends and her old life in New York.

As Gigi grieves for her brother and rages at the unspoken pain of motherhood, she realises she must somehow find a way back - not to the woman she was but to the woman she wants to be.


An unforgettable novel about love - for our partners, our children, our mothers, and ourselves - pushed to its outer limits.

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Praise for When I Ran Away: An unforgettable debut about love pushed to its outer limits

  • A powerful and compassionately told story of loss, grief, love and motherhood - Daily Mail

  • An incredibly raw and unflinching debut that will stop you in your tracks - Heat, 4* review

  • A profoundly moving story showing the redemptive power of love and acceptance - of friends, family and also of ourselves. Smart, brave and often very funny . . . I was captivated

  • Illona Bannister is the best friend every new mother wants-the one who tells you it's OK to fall apart and the one who makes you laugh until you get back up again. This first novel is a wise, big-hearted, triumphant story of marriage and motherhood

  • A beautiful and unflinching story of loss, motherhood and love in all its forms. Both heartbreaking and funny, Bannister perfectly captures the brilliant darkness of existing. I adored this brave debut.

  • A thematic companion to Kiley Reid's Such a Fun Age, Bannister's novel is a searing insight into the complexities of motherhood and the interminable frustration of the tiny needs, musts, and wants that keep a family moving. A gripping, introspective read - Booklist

  • Gigi is sharp and funny and endearing - Kirkus Reviews

  • This book ripped me open and stared right inside of me. I have never read words that described so perfectly so many of the feelings I've had (and still have)

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Ilona Bannister

Ilona Bannister is a dual qualified US attorney and UK solicitor. She practiced UK immigration law before taking a break to raise her sons. Her experience as a lawyer working closely with families in difficult situations as well as her life as an American expat in her adopted country have made her a keen observer of people and the struggles of outsiders. Ilona is also developing a following on her astute and sharply funny Instagram account, soon to be a blog, @ilona.bannister where she uses Lego figures to discuss maternal mental health, feminism, socially conscious parenting and the amusing, yet sometimes daunting, side of being a parent. Ilona is a New Yorker married to an Englishman and raising two young sons in London. In her free time, Ilona enjoys running. Her first novel, When I Ran Away, was developed on Faber Academy's Work in Progress course.

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