Three women, three voices, three generations, but a single ache caused by separation from those they love. Meg Mitchell Moore's So Far Away introduces us to three very different characters: Kathleen Lynch, a research librarian at the Massachusetts State Archives; Natalie Gallagher, a young teen who comes to the archives to work on a school project; and Bridget O'Connell, who immigrated to Boston from Ireland in the 1920s.
Because the nature of the principal characters' problems and losses are revealed slowly, I don't want to talk about them here and thus spoil the suspense and mystery of the book. Kathleen (in her 50s) and Natalie (13 years old) narrate So Far Away in alternating sections. Each tells her own story, looking into the past as well as moving the plot forward. They are both private people, and keep their troubles to themselves as best they can. Bridget, too, is given a voice, but her tale is told through her journal, which Natalie found in the basement of her house. Like the others, Bridget held her secrets close.
It's easy to become invested in Kathleen, Natalie, and Bridget. I was especially drawn to Bridget's journal, but I also wanted to know more about Kathleen's history and Natalie's present. Moore even had me rooting for the minor characters, including Kathleen's dog. Although this sounds like a sad book or a book with little action, it's not either. So Far Away isn't light fiction but it doesn't lack hope, and there's plenty going on in the characters' lives.
Moore writes about the many faces of loss and how our attitudes have changed over the generations. What was devastating to Bridget would be more acceptable today. But what Natalie faces is the product of the 21st-century. From the very first chapter, we learn about one of Natalie's issues: She is the victim of cyber-bullying, and this makes her tale the most heartbreaking of the three.
Another theme of So Far Away is the question of reaching out to help when you see someone in need. Where is the line between being kind and invasive? Do you tell your friends, or even strangers, that you think their child is in trouble? How do you get others to listen, particularly when you know from personal experience that it's unlikely they'll heed your warning? There are no easy answers, but Moore makes you think.
I listened to the unabridged audio edition (Hachette Audio; 11 hr, 2 min) read by Emma Galvin (as Natalie) and Suzanne Toren (as Kathleen). My positive audio review will be available at the AudioFile website later this month.
Published by Hachette / Reagan Arthur Books, 2012
Source: Review (see review policy)
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