Book: So Far Away
Author: Meg Mitchell Moore
Summary: Thirteen-year-old Natalie Gallagher wants to escape: from her parents’ ugly divorce and from the vicious cyberbullying of her former best friend. Adrift, confused, she is a girl trying to find her way in a world that seems to either neglect her or despise her. Her salvation arrives in an unlikely form: Bridget O’Connell, an Irish maid working for a wealthy Massachusetts family. The catch? Bridget only lives in the pages of a dusty old 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 other people who knew my secret, and both are gone before me. Who was Bridget, and what became of her? Natalie loses herself in 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, a 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, Bridget’s faded journal unites the lonely girl and the unhappy widow - and might even change their lives forever. - Hachette, 2012.
I got this book as a gift from one of the college professors. The setting is very similar to what my own hometown is and he thought I might enjoy it.
As usual, spoilers will be kept to a minimum.
This book was a little too personal for me. It hit really close to home as I identified a little with Natalie and some of her problems. She experiences teenage growing pains and social problems that I know all too well and it was difficult to read through the book. As for Kathleen, she gets an equally unhappy storyline that revolves around her missing daughter.
Natalie’s storyline is focused on much more than Kathleen’s so Kathleen’s story lacks the three-dimensional, full narrative that Natalie’s story has and in turn, the book suffers for it. There’s too many loose endings for my liking on Kathleen’s part and I wish she got equal treatment from Moore so that the story felt more full.
The story’s summary is a bit misleading as it makes Bridget, the Irish maid from the 1920s, appear to be a major part of the story. While Bridget does play an important part, it’s not nearly as important as the summary makes it out to be. She is more of a way for Kathleen and Natalie to connect and reflect individually than act as a saving grace for either of the two women.
We, as readers, see more into Natalie’s mind than Kathleen’s, but Moore does a good job in garnering sympathy and empathy for both women. You yearn to be able to help Natalie from the cyberbullying she suffers through and you hope Kathleen is able to find her runaway daughter. In the end, both women learn something from the other and are able to bond.
At first, I didn’t enjoy the ending to the book, as it just gives the reader a sort-of “And that’s that” sort of resigned shrug. It’s an abrupt ending. I wanted a happy ending. I wanted closure. However, after thinking about it, I realized that Moore’s ending is more true-to-life. There are rarely any happy endings and sometimes there’s never any closure. The reader is left feeling what the characters feel - alone, unsure, and not entirely happy. It’s tentative and fragile. It’s not a feel-good read by any means.
While Natalie’s story is more rounded, Kathleen’s story isn’t given equal treatment, potentially isolating anyone who was more invested in Kathleen’s story than Natalie’s. If you want to make a story about two women who grow together as a result of experiencing each other, it’s best to give them equal treatment.
Moore isn’t a bad writer by any means. She is good. Her subject matter is also well-researched, the scenery is clear, and the characters can be easily formed within the mind. I would say her only fault is in the plot of the story by leaving too many loose ends for one of her major characters.
Overall, I give So Far Away a B-.
Please support the author by buying the book or borrowing it from your local library or a friend. Thanks for reading!