Novels About Discovery or with an Epiphany

A character in these novels discovers, or is seeking to discover, something about themselves or life.

See also Identity and Belonging

See also Coming of Age

Novels with a directly stated epiphany are marked *

*The Bridge of San Luis Rey | Thorton Wilder

In Lima, Peru, in June of 1714, a century old rope bridge collapses resulting in the death of the five people on it. A monk, Brother Juniper, witnesses the tragedy, and wonders why God would allow it. He decides to find out by researching the five victims to determine what traits they had. The narrative gives us the results of his research, the life histories of the victims.

A portion of the story is told thru the letters of one of the victims, the Marquesa de Montemayor.

*A Separate Peace | John Knowles

Gene Forrester recalls his school days with his roommate Phineas. Gene is an intellectual and good athlete; Phineas is charismatic and the best athlete at school. Phineas wanted to form a secret society with the initiation being to jump from a tree into a river. During one visit to the tree, an accident occurs that Gene feels guilty over.

*Kim | Rudyard Kipling

Kim is a thirteen-year-old Irish boy who was orphaned in British India and grew up in an opium den. His wide experience with languages and customs allow him to blend in anywhere. When he meets a Tibetan lama searching for the Holy River, he becomes his chela, or assistant. When they come upon an army regiment, Kim’s identity becomes known and the chaplains want to prevent him from serving a Buddhist monk.

“There is no sin so great as ignorance. Remember this.”

Read “Kim”

The Alchemist | Paulo Coelho

Santiago is a young shepherd traveling the Spanish countryside. He has had a recurring dream about finding his fortune in an Egyptian pyramid; a gypsy woman tells him he must go to Egypt. He makes his way to Tangier. After he is robbed of all his money, he starts working at a crystal shop to save enough money to get back home.

Read “The Alchemist”

The Catcher in the Rye | J.D. Salinger

Holden Caulfield, sixteen, gets expelled from his New York private school for not applying himself. He gets into a fight in his dorm over a girl. He leaves school to stay in a hotel for a while before his parents will expect him home. He meets an assortment of unusual people. Holden feels alienated and wants to protect children form losing their innocence.

Read “The Catcher in the Rye”

*The Stone Angel | Margaret Laurence

Hagar Shipley is ninety and living with her son, Marvin, and his wife. Marvin is planning to sell his mother’s house (he controls her affairs now) and move her into a nursing home. The narrative is a mixture of Hagar’s resistance to how her life is going in the present and memories of her early life and marriage.

*Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant | Anne Tyler

Pearl Tull is on her deathbed. She remembers events from her life, including her children and when her husband, Beck, left the family. Pearl was tough on herself and her children; she wonders if they blame her for how their lives turned out. The subsequent chapters are told from the point of view of one of Pearl’s three children.  Some of the things overlap, giving us multiple perspectives on a single event.


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