Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Book Review: So Far Away

By Melissa Amster

There are many ways to feel lost and lonely. When the opportunity arises to reach out and be part of someone else's world, it's tempting to act on it. This is the situation that Kathleen is faced with when she meets Natalie, an equally lonely teenager, in Meg Mitchell Moore's latest novel, "So Far Away."

Natalie is only thirteen years old and dealing with the aftermath of a divorce and fending off cruel text messages from her former best friend. Kathleen, a widower whose daughter ran away from home, spends her days working as an archivist and her nights with her ailing dog. They become acquainted when a school project leads Natalie to Kathleen's office. When Natalie finds an old diary written by an Irish domestic servant in the 1920's, she looks to Kathleen to find some answers. Together, they realize that loneliness and fear are timeless.

At first, I wasn't sure what direction this story was headed, but once I got into it, it was easy to get caught up in both Natalie and Kathleen's lives. They're both separated from me by over 20 years, but I felt I could easily understand their frustrations and worries. I especially could relate to Natalie, as I dealt with bullies as a kid. Her situation inspired me to write a post about bullying for Empowering Parents. The subject matter was relevant in this way and I think all parents should read it and then discuss bullying with their kids. While Ms. Moore tries to handle it sensitively, she still allows it to get under the reader's skin and stay there. She does this by making the reader feel like they're in Natalie's shoes, experiencing the bullying first hand. And it isn't pretty. Ms. Moore also uses detail so nicely that it's easy to get a feel for the season during which the story takes place. You can almost feel the shiver from being outside during a November rainstorm. The dialogue flowed nicely throughout the story and the conversations seemed natural and realistic. Natalie, Kathleen and Bridget (the woman behind the diary) all were interesting characters and their relationships with other characters were heartfelt.

I did have a few concerns, however. While I liked that there was a diary and we got a peek into the past through this medium, I felt that it jumped around a lot and was very rushed. There wasn't as much time to feel for Bridget, even though she had an interesting story. She also used dialogue in her diary, which I don't feel fits into that format. It's one of my pet peeves when an author includes a character's diary in their novel. I wasn't sure how Bridget's story really connected to Natalie and Kathleen's stories. I know it was supposed to help them feel less alone in the world, but I'm not sure that it really accomplished what it was set out to do.  Aside from that, there were a lot of errors and inconsistencies. However, I had an advanced uncorrected proof, so I hope they were fixed for the final published version. The lack of chapters was a bit frustrating to me. If you're not chapter-obsessed like I am, this shouldn't be an issue for you. This aspect didn't take away from my enjoyment of the story though.

Overall, I was impressed with my first experience with Ms. Moore's writing. I think this is a story that will be touching for women of all ages. I know I definitely want my mom to read it, and I only share the special stories with her.

Thanks to BookSparks PR for the advanced reader's copy in exchange for an honest review.

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