Author: Ursula K. Le Guin
Published: New York, Harper & Row, c1980
Current Status: Out of Print
Originally titled: Threshold (the U.S. publishers changed the title while the British publishers kept the original)
Genre: Fantasy, young adult
Length: 183 pages
The Beginning place is the story of two young adults, Hugh Rogers and Irene Pannis, who are both stuck in their current situations and looking for a way to escape.
Hugh Rogers works as a grocery store clerk, and lives with his mother, who is needy and demanding to the point of codependency. He dreams of going to library college, but his mother’s badgering, as well as his own lack of motivation, keep him from leaving the stable (and unexciting) job he has. He is unconfident, and uncomfortable with himself, having never lived in one place very long and having been abandoned by his father. Irene Pannis comes from an abusive household, and doesn’t know what direction she wants to take in life. She doesn’t feel that she can leave her mother, who needs protection from her husband.
Hugh and Irene both find the beginning place, which is a gateway, when running away. The gateway leads to a world of perpetual twilight where time flows differently (one normal hour passes per day in the twilight land) and things don’t change much as the years pass. Irene found it when she was a child, after her stepfather tried to attack her, and from then on, Tembreabrezi (a town in the twilight land) became her sanctuary, her special place, which she called the ain country. She learned the language and became close with the inhabitants. Hugh stumbled upon it during a panic attack, though he admits that he felt a strong pull towards the gateway.
When Hugh finds his way to Tembreabrezi, the town is no longer the happy place it once was when Irene first came there. Somehow, by some force, leaving the town is now forbidden, so the townspeople can no longer herd their flocks or trade with other communities. With no trade of goods, they are running out of food, and will starve once the animals have all been slaughtered. They are waiting for a savior to come, and Hugh is thrust into that role, not because of any skill or courage, but because he was in the right place at the right time.
Hugh and Irene, who both have the ability to pass the borders of the town, go off together on an uncertain errand. No one in the town tells them precisely what they have to do, but Irene comes to understand that a sacrifice must be made to appease whatever power is holding the town captive, and that the townspeople would rather send an uninvolved young man into danger than one of their own. In their adventures together the two young people develop a bond and learn that there is a place for them in the world.
Essentially, this is a story about growing up and moving on, or coming of age, and the loss of innocence. The setting, Tembreabrezi, is always in twilight, and quiet and somber. The people there do age, but the roles and the politics are always the same and well defined. This offered stability for Irene during her teenage years, and in doing so, always offered her an escape from everyday life. This is why she resents Hugh so much for intruding on her land; he represents real life, and the chaos in it. To Hugh, the twilight land is a place where he finds respect and a purpose for existing, which he doesn’t have in his life as a clerk. But when Irene realizes that the town has a darker, more selfish side, and Hugh understands that his quest is more than just a game, they learn that no place is perfect and that beauty can be found just as easily in real world things.
Taken from my own head, and