Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 486
"My grandmother’s estate, which I’d only seen in photos, felt like a place I remembered from some alternate, imaginary childhood. One where I rode horses and went to summer camp. It was the daydream I disappeared into when I needed a break from the endless cycle of highways and new...
(The entire section contains 486 words.)
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"My grandmother’s estate, which I’d only seen in photos, felt like a place I remembered from some alternate, imaginary childhood. One where I rode horses and went to summer camp. It was the daydream I disappeared into when I needed a break from the endless cycle of highways and new schools and the smell of unfamiliar houses. I’d paste myself into its distant world of fountains and hedges, highballs and a pool so glittering bright you had to squint against it."
Althea and her mother are staying in a someone else's finely furnished apartment in New York when a letter on distinctive green stationary arrives telling of the death of the protagonist's famous author grandmother. Althea wonders if they will inherit the property. It's hard to blame her for thinking of this given her peripatetic life on the road, but that's the last thing the mother is thinking of. Her mother tells her that now things might change for the better. Now they might finally be free, as if some cursed legally has been hanging over them.
"We stayed in so many places, with so many people, that I never really learned the concept of stranger danger. Which is why, when I was six years old, I got into an old blue Buick with a redheaded man I’d never met and drove with him for fourteen hours straight—plus two stops for bathroom breaks and one for pancakes—before the cops pulled us over, tipped off by a waitress who recognized my description from the radio."
The man had told Althea that he was a friend of her grandmother's and that he would take her to see her, but eventually she figures out that was not the case. Althea's mother told her that her grandmother didn't have any friends, only fans. Eventually, Althea comes to the conclusion that the red-headed man must be her father after a few more mysterious sightings, but eventually gives up this thought as an outworn childhood conceit.
“Life was a big thing to live without a map.”
Indeed. Most of us can take cues from our families, friends, culture, and education but how much can those guide you in another world with a different set of rules? I suppose that is part of the excitement and dread experienced by the characters upon entering the fantastic world of The Hinterland. In another dimension with different rules and possibilities, the characters face new challenges and can try being different selves than they can be in this world with its own rules and roadmaps. Althea clearly hates the world and is consequently hard to like as a character for taking her unhappiness out on everyone else. Once we come to find the answers to some of the mysteries of her family and her difficult life in the second half of the novel our understanding makes her a more sympathetic character.