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Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name: A Novel Paperback – January 2, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Believer co-editor Vida again explores violence, its aftermath and the curative powers of travel in her bleak second novel. (Her debut, 2003's And Now You Can Go, sent a young woman to the Philippines after a traumatic event.) 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. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Vida, coeditor of Believer magazine, follows her canny debut, And Now You Can Go (2003), with a taut, darkly witty, and galvanizing tale of one woman's search for the truth about her parentage. Clarissa's enigmatic mother left her family, including her retarded son, when Clarissa was 14, and vanished without a trace. A dozen years later, Clarissa is languishing in a stale relationship and going nowhere with her work editing movie subtitles when her father abruptly dies, and a gaping hole opens in her past. Now it's Clarissa's turn to disappear as she journeys to Lapland and the world of the Sami, an indigenous people who still herd reindeer. With skilled distillation, Vida evokes a culture on the brink of extinction and a legacy of loss as her anxious yet adventurous protagonist throws herself on the mercy of strangers in an otherworldly realm of deep cold, hard drinking, a hotel constructed of snow and ice, the northern lights, and long memories. Brilliantly distilled, blade-sharp, and as dangerously exhilarating as skating in the dark. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The author is skilled at portraying men as uncaring, socially awkward or dangerous. The author also seems to be of view that certain behavior that I think is immoral is fine as the protagonist (Clarissa) portrays, though I would have to give too much away about the story to explain my position. In short, in someways, Clarissa in the story is entitled to lead a life on her own (unfair) terms especially at the end (see review by Jean A Rogers, one star, "skip the last 2 pages--you'll be happy you did." The ending is odd, unrealistic, contemptible, and ridiculous.
One not saving grace about the book, is that the reader can surmise a totally different point of view than the author seems to be espousing, one in which your biologic parents are not important and the parents (adopted) who raise you and love are what is paramount. And that a person who tries to refute that position, ends up being an immoral person herself (though less than her mother as the author points out). This Orwellian theme has merit, though regrettably is not the author's intention.
This books is so well written, and was so well researched from a Lapland standpoint, that I give the book five stars, even though I find the storyline to be distasteful. Perhaps a longer section on "A Conversation with Vendela Vida" which is at the end of the book might improve my opinion of the author's intentions.
Even if the author's viewpoint is as noisome as it seems, I would still recommend this book to inform the reader of how some people view men, the world, and what some people think is morally acceptable or even laudable. I wonder how many men besides me and the author's husband, have read this book. What gives away the author's point of view is the interview in the afterward in which the author states the main character 'follows in her mother's footsteps though she is less ruthless' and that the main character Clarissa is "likeable." Oh really? To explain a more realistic and opposite viewpoint, I would have to give too much away of the story, and I look forward to reading other reviews.
The books is very well written and I had to force myself to put it down rather than reading it all at once. I would suggest not to read it all at once, take time, digest the characters, story line, and places. Look up on line and research some of the places in Lapland. The author also discusses Lapland culture, e.g. Aurora Borealis is one's ancestors communicating with the living. What a nice thought. I hope the book will inspire you to visit Finland, as I have been there five times which is what made me curious about the book to read it. I have also sent copies to two Finnish friends.
A major theme that the author wishes to express, is that no matter what your background, it is possible to start over, re-invent yourself, remold or even un-mold your past. You can do more than start over, you can erase parts of your past. This idea is worthwhile, though I believe this character and this novel is not a good way of making that point.
If I were grading it based on values and morality, I would give the book one star; however, the author is entitled to her view of the world, her view of men, her view of adoption, her view of pregnancy, her view of relationships. I am judging the book on how well written and researched it is, and therefore it receives five stars from me; another reviewer, who seems to share at least some of my criticism of the book chose to give the book one star, "Skip the last 2 pages--you'll be happy you did," by Jean A Rogers "Cam Jam"