Friday, April 5, 2013

Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name - Vendela Vida


Far, far north, sitting above the Arctic Circle, Lapland is a world made of ice; a place both foreign and perilous that unexpectedly lures New Yorker Clarissa Iverton from what had finally become a comfortable life. At 14, her mother disappeared. Now 28, and just days after the death of her father, Clarissa discovers that he wasn't her father after all, and the only clues to her true heritage are a world away. Abandoning her fiancé, she flies to Helsinki, seeking to uncover the secrets her mother kept for so long. While piecing together the fragments of her mother's mysterious past, Clarissa is led to the Sami, Lapland's native "reindeer people," who dwell in a stark and frozen landscape, under the northern lights. It is there that she must summon the courage to confront an unbearable truth, and the violent act that ties her to this ancient people.


This was one of the most beautifully written books I've ever read.  The prose was descriptive, but concise (it often reminded me of Hemingway).  Some readers may have a hard time with this book because while Clarissa has tragic circumstances, she is not always the most likeable character.  Her decisions may rub the reader the wrong way.  That being said, I found the complicated emotional ties to her family as well as the mystery in her connection to the Sami people very compelling.  I have seen Vida's writing described as "Spartan", and I think this is true in every sense of the word (all in good ways).  Vida uses every word to its fullest impact, the chapters are very short, and while there is a lot of angst involved, the plot is always moving forward and keeping the reader's interest with it.  I also appreciated that despite the angst, Vida never overdoes it - I can't stand to read pages and pages of whiny dialogue (a la Interview With The Vampire).  When you finish this book, you will need to take a moment to digest it, most likely followed by an urge to reach out to your family.


Readers interested in northern natives, good literature, and interesting prose.


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