Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Alice's Review: Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name

Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name: A Novel (P.S.)
Summary: Believer co-editor Vida again explores violence, its aftermath and the curative powers of travel in her bleak second novel. But this time readers are nearly a hundred pages in before the long-ago physical violence is revealed. Clarissa, home after her father's funeral, finds herself deeply alone. Her developmentally disabled brother has never spoken, and her mother walked out on them 14 years before. Digging through family papers, she finds her birth certificate, which lists a stranger as her father. The hunt for him—and the resumption of a search for her mother—lead Clarissa to far northern Europe, where the days are short, the reindeer are plentiful and her mother had once felt "connected." Clarissa's travels in her mother's steps—seeking that connection, stumbling, finding it and finally severing it—are bleak. Vida's fan base will welcome this novel, and the twin questions of what Clarissa's amateur sleuthing will turn up and how each discovery will affect her might draw a few new readers through this slim, austere work.

Review:  I fashion myself a writer. It’s something I wanted to do from the time I was twelve years old. I will admit freely that although I have the desire, I don’t have the skill. I’m okay with that. I wanted to tell you these things Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name is the novel I wish I could write.

The protagonist is Clarissa, a woman in her late twenties, who learns that the man she thought was her father was in fact not. This leads her on a journey to find the truth. The core of this novel is self-discovery. It’s about finding you are not who you think you are, then casting everything you do know aside to search for the truth.

This novel was excellent from start to finish. Ms. Vida has a way of engaging the reader. I really felt that I knew Clarissa, knew how she came to her conclusions. This novel made me catch my breath. It gave me that tight feeling in my chest. I finished reading it over a month ago and I can still vividly feel Clarissa’s confusion, her hurt and anger, her feelings of hopelessness and uncertainty. This is the kind of novel that is dictated by the character, not the author. I think in the end Clarissa made the best decision for herself, one she has to live with, the one that will make her happy.

I also enjoyed this novel immensely because up until then I never even heard of Lapland or the Sami people. One of my favorite parts of reading is discovering new places. Ms. Vida does a beautiful job of describing this magical land filled with salt of the earth people. I could see the look in Anna Kristine’s dark eyes, I could taste the saltiness of the reindeer meet, feel the chill of the ice hotel.

Even as I write this, I want to pick up this novel and read it again. It’s a complex story simply told. And don’t ask me to borrow my copy, get your own. It’s well worth it.

Final Take:  5/5

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