Running Out Of Time Summary

Margaret Peterson Haddix

Running Out Of Time

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Running Out Of Time Summary

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Running Out of Time (1996), a novel by Margaret Peterson Haddix, has seen its share of plagiarism copycats, most notably the film The Village. Simon & Schuster, who first published Running Out Of Time, mentioned that this film had a number of close similarities to the Haddix book. The film’s story line also features a village that decides amongst themselves to live their lives in a way that resembles the 1800s, even though it is 1996 The film also features a young, female protagonist who is able to escape the village to obtain medical supplies.

Running Out of Time is a thriller, written primarily for young adults. Jessie Keyser is the main character of the novel. Jessie and the rest of the children her age believe they live in a city called Clifton, Indiana, in the year 1840. Jessie’s Ma is a midwife, and the people of the city prefer her help to that of Dr. Fister, who has long since stopped giving out pills that actually cure sicknesses. When Ma goes to cure the sick children, Jessie goes with her, but her mother always has her wait outside so that she does not get ill herself. This night in particular, they have called on the Bentons. Both of the Benton children have fallen ill, the same mysterious sickness that is spreading throughout the city. This is diphtheria, but few know the truth of this. Her mother tells her that she must meet her at the Forbidden Rock, tomorrow after school.

On the way home from school, Jessie notices that her little sister, Katie, has become ill. Jessie gives Katie a piggy back ride home from school, and tucks her into bed. Avoiding questions from the rest of her siblings, Jessie is able to get away to meet with her mother. Her mother reveals the truth: it is not 1840, it is really 1996. Clifton Village was created by a man named Miles Clifton in the 1980s, as a kind of novelty place where people could get back to the basics and live a simpler sort of life. Clifton is often visited by tourists, and Ma says that Clifton would never be able to survive in Clifton Village himself. Modern medicine used to be sent into the village, but for whatever reason it is not anymore. Jessie listens, shocked. Ma tells her that she must go to the outside world and search for help. She tells her to find a Mr. Neely, and he will help. Jessie takes some modern clothes and leaves for the real world, through a manhole that leads to the Clifton visitor centre.

When she gets to the visitor centre, Jessie must hide from the guards. She overhears them talking about the security at Clifton being worse than a prison, and rumours that it will soon be shut down. Jessie passes by the guards undetected, and hides in the bathroom all night. The next morning she dresses, and disguises herself as a modern student, and walks around with the children her age. It is with a sick shock that Jessie realises her entire life has been watched by strangers, people she never knew existed. The tour guide lies, saying that the people in Clifton Village are perfectly aware that they are living in an artificial world, and they all agreed to be watched by tourists. He says everyone has privacy except in the common areas. Eventually, Jessie makes her way out of the centre, and out of Clifton entirely. She finds a gas station and tries to call Mr. Neely, but he doesn’t answer. Jessie starts to walk without being quite sure where she is going, and must escape an aggressive man named Ray who sees her walking on the side of the road. Then she arrives in another town, Waverly. She tries to call him from a KFC, and he answers. Mr. Neely says he will pick her up, and that he will help her. Mr. Neely takes Jessie to his apartment, and she is able to rest. When she awakes, she hears Mr. Neely on the phone, contemplating having to kill Jessie. Other people arrive, including Miles Clifton, and Jessie is barely able to escape undetected.

Jessie is able to find her way downtown, and into the capitol. She calls her own press conference, and tells the reporters all about the truth of Clifton Village. Jessie is exhausted and drained, and faints from fatigue. She wakes up in a hospital, and finds that all the sick Clifton children are also there, being treated. Mr. Neely turns out to be Frank Lyle, who, with a group of scientists, was doing experiments on the village people. They released the diseases to see who would survive.

Jessie is reunited with her family, and they return to Clifton to decide what to do with their property. The family struggles to embrace the future life they now live in, but will do it together.