Why this Girl Ran Away from Home

Today Emily Wierenga shares an excerpt from her memoir Atlas Girl, called Why this Girl Ran Away from Home. Welcome Emily!

girl ran away home

For some reason I always said a prayer for her when it was dark. Mum.

Not really during the day, but always when it was night and maybe because she was like a candle. We didn’t talk a lot and we were opposite in temperament and so, we yelled a lot, and yet I missed the way she smelled of lavender and would hold me when a boy dumped me or when Dad wouldn’t listen to me.

The man with the alcoholic breath was whimpering in his sleep and I felt sorry for him and annoyed and I had a crick in my neck. No one seemed to notice this blond girl with the man asleep on her shoulder, but that was the way I wanted it. No one seeing me, all hunched over with my Margaret Atwood novel and my Walkman.

I was listening to Journey. “Just a small town girl, livin’ in a lonely world… she took a midnight train going anywhere…”

Closed my eyes against the jagged yellow of the road and buried my nose against my cardigan. It smelled of Fuzzy Peach perfume from the Body Shop. Of the mission trip to Atlanta, Georgia, to the Olympic Games; of the 21-year-old boy who had given me my sweet sixteen kiss.


It smelled like home and my room covered in Michael W. Smith and DC Talk posters and the floral quilt with Cuddles, my bear. And I didn’t remember Dad ever entering that room. Mum sometimes slid books under the door, books on sex and why not to have it before marriage and sometimes my sisters would come in and watch me do my makeup.

Ever since the anorexia—me starving myself from the ages of nine to 13 and ending up in a hospital where my hair fell out and my nails curled under—they’d been a bit scared of me and I didn’t blame them. Mum didn’t let them visit me very often because I played secular music from the radio, stuff like Bon Jovi and Bryan Adams, stuff that made the insides of my legs ache a little.

I twisted the silver purity ring on my ring finger and it wasn’t coming off, not until my wedding day and it was the one thing my parents and I agreed on.

But I would have pulled the Kleenex from my bra, and the bra from my body, for Seth Jones.

For the scratchy way he’d said my name and the way his brown hair hung over his eyes, but I hadn’t. And Mum had knocked on my bedroom door that day, roses in her arms and she’d sat on my bed and held me, the day Seth had dumped me in the courtyard of the school. The day he’d said I was too nice. Which really just meant I wouldn’t get undressed for him.

But then Mum had given me a bouquet of roses and my fingers had bled from the thorns. And I’d known I wasn’t too nice, just too afraid of sin, and sometimes it doesn’t matter what kind of fear, so long as it steers you right.

I didn’t know why I was waiting except that sex was a big deal, even bigger than drinking, and it was only allowed after marriage.

Not that marriage meant much with my dad sleeping on the couch after staying up late on the computer and Mum getting jealous over the ladies Dad talked to after church in his long minister’s robe and his face full of laughter wrinkles, the kind of wrinkles we never saw at home.

“Edmonton,” the driver’s weary voice crackled over the speaker and the man on my shoulder was sitting up now, rubbing his eyes and yawning. As though he did that kind of thing all the time, as though we were lovers or friends, and I shrugged.

The bus was stopping and the Ojibway man inching out of his seat.

And I stood up, and my heart fell out of my chest and I couldn’t breathe.

For all of my 18 years of not being able to connect with him, I missed him.

My father.



This is an excerpt from my new memoir, Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look, which released this week through Baker Books. I am excited to give away TWO copies today. Just enter the Rafflecopter below to win!

I’m also giving away a FREE e-book to anyone who orders Atlas Girl. Just order HERE, and send a receipt to: atlasgirlbookreceipt@gmail.com, and you’ll receive A House That God Built: 7 Essentials to Writing Inspirational Memoir — an absolutely FREE e-book co-authored by myself and editor/memoir teacher Mick Silva.

64519_10153705975080099_2037134714_nALL proceeds from Atlas Girl will go towards my non-profit, The Lulu Tree. The Lulu Tree is dedicated to preventing tomorrow’s orphans by equipping today’s mothers. It is a grassroots organization bringing healing and hope to women and children in the slums of Uganda through the arts, community, and the gospel.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. You left me hanging…Looking forward to reading the whole book!

  2. I didn’t want this article to end! I’m ready to read more…this is captivating and very relatable.

  3. Marla Jensen says:

    I was like WHAT? it ended? Definitely hooked and wanting to read more.

  4. Hi there! I loved this excerpt and would love to read this book, I’ve felt a calling of the Lord to write a memoir of my childhood and then coming to the Lord after years of sexual abuse and my mother not believing me, and much much more, but I’ve never gotten past being able to write a few chapters. Id love to read this! Hope I win! God Bless!
    Tara Eveland recently posted…Shaping Christian Character In Young ChildrenMy Profile

  5. I am intrigued. If I win the book, great. If not, I will still be reading this book.

  6. amanda scoggins says:

    This book really caught my attention. As a parent and someone who ran around the world a time or two I can’t wait to read it!

  7. Sarah De Mey says:

    Phenomenal writing. Definitely reading this one.

  8. I want to keep reading! Thanks for sharing this on your site :)

  9. Angela Ferrara says:

    Sounds like a great book. The excerpt definitely hooked me.

  10. This looks like an interesting book! Now I’m curious about how the story turns out!
    Rachel Lundy recently posted…Five Minute Friday: ReleaseMy Profile

  11. I cannot wait to read this book! It sounds like it deals with some of the same issues I’m working through right now. Thanks for the intriguing post!

  12. Love the writing style, can’t wait to read the book! Thanks for all that you do to encourage marriages and families. You are truly a blessing.

  13. Grabbed my attention! Even quoted one of my favorite songs from one of my favorite bands!
    Heather recently posted…Liberty BowMy Profile

  14. Alchemist says:

    This sounds interesting. For some reason I’m drawn to memoirs/ stories of people’s battles with mental illness. Especially eating disorders.

  15. Sounds interesting!

  16. This excerpt was very intriguing and well written – I want to read the whole thing! The quote about fear really resonated with me, because it was what kept me from a lot of things, even when I was tired of following the rules. Thank God for His grace in our lives!

  17. I grew up just outside of Edmonton. Definitely want to read the book, especially after that excerpt!

  18. Alexandra says:

    Wow. I want to know more! Hope I win a copy.

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