Review: So Far Away

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: So Far AwaySo Far Away by Meg Mitchell Moore
Published by Reagan Arthur on May 29, 2012
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 322
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley

Thirteen-year-old Natalie Gallagher is trying to escape: from her parents' ugly divorce, and from the vicious cyber-bullying of her former best friend. Adrift, confused, she is a girl trying to find her way in a world that seems to either neglect or despise her. Her salvation arrives in an unlikely form: Bridget O'Connell, an Irish maid working for a wealthy Boston family. The catch? Bridget lives only in the pages of a dusty old 1920s diary Natalie unearthed in her mother's basement. But the life she describes is as troubling - and mysterious - as the one Natalie is trying to navigate herself, almost a century later.

I am writing this down because this is my story. There were only ever two people who knew my secret, and both are gone before me.

Who was Bridget, and what became of her?

Natalie escapes into the diary, eager to unlock its secrets, and reluctantly accepts the help of library archivist Kathleen Lynch, a widow with her own painful secret: she's estranged from her only daughter. Kathleen sees in Natalie traces of the daughter she has lost, and in Bridget, another spirited young woman at risk.

What could an Irish immigrant domestic servant from the 1920s teach them both? As the troubles of a very modern world close in around them, and Natalie's torments at school escalate, the faded pages of Bridget's journal unite the lonely girl and the unhappy widow - and might even change their lives forever.

First Sentence: “It was a Friday when the girl came into the Archives for the first time, the first Friday after they’d changed the clocks.”

I make no secret of my affinity for books about libraries and librarians. If I see that it’s about a librarian, I will add a book to my to-read list, except maybe the romance novels, and, should I spot one of those at Goodwill, I would probably by it, later forcing my friends to listen to a dramatic reading, because that’s just the kind of person I am. Anyway, I’m pretty sure I requested this because of the word ‘archivist’ in the description, because I think otherwise I would have let this pass me by. I’m glad I didn’t.

The archives scenes were a very small part of the novel, but they were right at the front, so Moore got me nice and hooked. Natalie enters the archives and asks for help with a project for school. She wants to research her family’s genealogy. Kathleen gives a little spiel about how hard that can be, and I immediately recommended the book to my mom, because she has been crazy obsessed with doing genealogy for the past couple years.

The book doesn’t necessarily focus on that, but it’s sort of the frame story. More specifically, So Far Away is about the diary that Natalie found, and is going to use to figure out who her family really is. The diary was written by an ancestor during the 1920s. While I have a huge love of history, and am very interested in that time period, I was really bored by the diary. The rest of the book, while somewhat slow moving, maintained my interest, but I really just did not have any stake in the fate of the bridget named Bridget.

In addition to comments on genealogical and archival work, the other thing I loved was the parts about bullying. Natalie is being bullied by her former best friend, who has found a new, more popular, meaner best friend. They send threatening all caps texts (YOU KNOW THIS IS THREATENING) and even create a website about how much they hate her. Kathleen senses this and tries to help, while Natalie’s parents and the school are ignorant and/or unwilling to step in. The story puts forward the idea that modern bullying is a whole different thing than it used to be. I thought this was timely and well done.

The one thing I definitely did not approve of was Lucy, Kathleen’s dog. Don’t get me wrong; I loved the dog. However, Lucy was pretty much Kathleen’s only family (since Kathleen’s daughter ran away years before). Yet, I am supposed to believe that Kathleen would not notice that her dog was getting perpetually sicker throughout the novel. I just don’t buy it. She would have had Lucy to the vet on the second or third day of her not eating. If the dog is basically your replacement child, you’re going to be worried, even in the midst of your research and concerns about Natalie. End of story.

So Far Away is a touching story about two troubled souls forming an unlikely bond, and trying to learn how to face the future. The pace is slow and contemplative, and I recommend to those who like a thought-provoking read.

Favorite Quote:

“We’ve all got our own brand of crazy.”

One response to “Review: So Far Away”

  1. kimba88 says:

    This sounds interesting and I agree no dog owner wouldn’t notice that their “baby” was getting sicker. Awesome review

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