When Amy Liptrot leaves rehab in London, she returns to her Orkney childhood home, the interior and exterior landscapes of which she maps in this spectacular memoir. Winds lash the land, sometimes moving tons of rock, as Liptrot weathers her cravings. On an island where the map can be “altered in the morning,” Liptrot remembers her drunken buzz through London. Descriptions of millennial city life are sorrowfully precise: “Years went by in a blur of waiting for the weekend, or for my article to be published, or for the hangover to end.” Later, she wonders, “Had all my life been leading up to doing Kundalini yoga with a bunch of pissheads… in various states of… mental anguish on an institutional carpet?” And yet, transcendence follows. She drives Orkney at night listening for threatened birds. She searches for a fata morgana, marvels at seals, but nevertheless wonders—why bother when one can “watch nature documentaries on YouTube?” Even with “twenty tabs open,”, this magnificent memoir is a record of transformation in its truest sense—what it means to leave behind the tabs for experience. Orkney legends tell of seals changing into humans, but, here, Liptrot is the shape-shifter, peeling off her wetsuit like blubber after snorkeling in the ice-cold sea. (Apr.)

Amy Liptrot. Norton, $25.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-393-60896-0

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