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Finding Family, New & Old: So Far Away by Meg Mitchell Moore

Cover image of So Far AwayFor Meg Mitchell Moore‘s second novel, So Far Away, she has created historical diary entries from an Irish immigrant maid’s found notebook, as well as believable contemporary characters ranging in age from 57-year-old archivist Kathleen, to Kathleen’s 30-something friend and coworker Neil, down to 13-year-old Natalie, who travels by bus from her suburban Newburyport home to Boston to visit the Massachusetts Archives in Boston on her own. She brings a crumbling notebook filled with handwriting too spidery for Natalie to read that she found hidden away in her basement – which turns out to be a gripping personal account from a Bridget O’Connell Callaghan (writing in 1975 as an elderly woman) about her position as a young maid just over from Ireland in a Boston doctor’s household.
Natalie (whose parents have separated and haven’t been showing much interest in her life) is investigating her family history for a school project and as a way of escaping bullying classmates who are tormenting her with malicious text messages. Kathleen, living alone with her dog Lucy after losing her teenage daughter years ago, becomes concerned about Natalie, but isn’t sure whether or how to intervene.
The author skillfully brings together several different story lines – historical and contemporary. Readers who liked The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards, A Wedding in December by Anita Shreve, or novels by Laura Moriarty or Joanna Trollope, will also like this moving novel about how easily families can break apart and how hard it can be to create new ones.

So Far Away
Moore, Meg Mitchell
Reagan Arthur (Little, Brown)
May 29, 2012

Disclosure: I received an advance reading copy of So Far Away from Little, Brown through NetGalley, but plan to purchase my own hardcover copy at an author signing at the Mattapoisett Free Public Library this month. Additional disclosure: I’m friends with the author’s mother-in-law, but I don’t think that influenced the review!

Other opinions of So Far Away (mostly good):
Amused by Books
Coffee and a Book Chick
Devourer of Books
Everyday I Write the Book
Jenn’s Bookshelves

6 Responses

  1. This is another book that I need to read soon. Have you read her last book, THE ARRIVALS? Such a wonderful book. By the way, I love the way you include – if you liked this book/author/type of book, you might like this one. When I worked at the library, read advisory was my very favorite thing. Bet you are a whiz at it!

  2. This sounds like my kind of book. Your post got me thinking about handwriting. Are the kids of today going to be able to read old journals they find that are written in cursive since it’s no longer taught in most schools?

    • I wondered about that too! I’ve tried to send a few actual notes/letters to mine written in cursive to give them practice over the years! But they’ve already gone through school. Maybe they’ll be taught to at least read cursive in school still?

  3. This was a tough book to read when it came to the cyberbullying sections. I was so mad at Natalie’s evil “friends” and her clueless parents and I just wanted to tuck her away and protect her from the world. What a mess that poor character had to deal with. And to think, this type of horror story happens to kids all the time!

    • I have some sympathy for clueless parents because they don’t usually realize that they’re clueless until it’s too late (like Kathleen) and bullying is so tricky (with trying to fix it sometimes making it worse.)

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