09 July 2012

Review: So Far Away by Meg Mitchell Moore

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.

Buy So Far Away at Powell's, at an Indie, at Book Depository, or at a bookstore near you. These links lead to affiliate programs.
Published by Hachette / Reagan Arthur Books, 2012
ISBN-13: 9780316097697
Source: Review (see review policy)
Rating: B
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea 7/9/12, 6:39 AM  

I've been hoping to catch some reviews on this one as it sounded like one I would enjoy. I hadn't thought about the audio, but for summer that seems perfect -- definitely listening to more audios lately.

caite 7/9/12, 9:23 AM  

I do have a fondness for story with Irish immigrants, since my father was one. I now wish I knew more about his own story..but he dies many years ago so...

Unknown 7/9/12, 10:02 AM  

I'm generally all about the character with my reading anyway, so I'm always on the lookout for a good cast of characters to enjoy meeting. Looks like this one could be a good one. Particulary the audio.

The Bumbles 7/9/12, 10:34 AM  

To be honest, when I read the descriptive it blurb, I nearly rolled my eyes and moved on. Same concept told over and over blah blah blah. BUT, because this comes from you, I thought, "let's see what Candace has to say."

Your review convinced me to add this to my To Read list - I love the journal voice aspect. Thanks for sharing your thoughts so well, as always ;0)

Barbara 7/9/12, 10:39 AM  

I love a book with good characters that draw you into their lives. This is definitely going on my list although I'm not an audio fan so I'll read the book.

bermudaonion 7/9/12, 1:45 PM  

It sounds like this book gave you a lot to think about.

I'll add your review to the Reagan Arthur Books Challenge blog.

Zibilee 7/9/12, 2:30 PM  

This was indeed an incredible book, and one that made me think about my own children and the things they go through. I loved that there were three perspectives, and all of them were intriguing. I really liked the way you wrote this review. You highlighted the internal dramas and struggles without giving too much away. Great job today!

Anonymous,  7/9/12, 5:35 PM  

After reading Heather/Zibilee's review I really wanted to read this one and now you have made me feel that even stronger! Perhaps I'll check out the audio since you did enjoy it.

Julie P. 7/9/12, 8:25 PM  

I am a big fan of Ms. Moore's. I thought this one would make a great book club pick!

Unknown 7/9/12, 11:02 PM  

This sounds very interesting, I love books that really make me think.

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