Novel idea expressed as a paragraph in a news story

by Adam Reger

You may have seen this story, about a Pennsylvania woman who disappeared, was declared dead, and subsequently turned up in Florida.

I’ve been fascinated by it, and in particular the impetus for the woman’s, Brenda Heist’s, disappearing in the first place. Here’s the Associated Press’s account:

Heist was going through an amicable divorce in 2002 when she got some bad news about future housing plans, Schofield said. She was crying in a park when some strangers befriended her, then invited her to join them as they began a monthlong hitchhiking journey to south Florida, he said.

I don’t mean to minimize the heartache Heist caused her husband and children, but—doesn’t that sound kind of magical? Friendly strangers comfort you as you cry in a public park, and on a whim you decide to change your life completely. Wow. If I were casting about for a new fiction project to start on, I would have just found it. The themes would be the tenuousness of modern life, this American willingness to throw everything aside and start over, the adaptability of personality. Stuff like that.