Author: Meg Mitchell Moore
So Far Away is a novel of loss – of innocence, of children, of the image of the good parent – and the theme revolves around family betrayals, offering poignant moments of sheer teenage anguish, the horror of bullying, and a woman whose child has run away, forever. Well portrayed, So Far Away tells the story of Natalie, a lost 13 year old, and a chance acquaintance, Kathleen, an archivist at the Massachusetts Archive. Each character is in crisis, and turn to each other for help and empowerment in very different stages of life.
13 year old Natalie is tall, gawky, shy and sensitive. Her best friend since they were in kindergarten, Hannah Morgan, has turned against her in order to hang with the popular girls at school. The girls’ target Natalie by cyber bullying. Natalie’s father has just left her mother, and has a new girlfriend who is pregnant. Her mother is mired in depression and cannot function, leaving Natalie to take care of her and the house. When Natalie’s teacher, Mrs. Ramirez assigns a special assignment, Natalie jumps on it. She wants to stop being invisible and to shine, at least for Mrs. Ramirez.
Natalie decides to continue the family geneology that her father has started, and skips school to go to the Massachusetts Archives by bus. She meets the archivist, a middle age woman named Kathleen, whose teenage daughter Susannah ran away when she was sixteen and has never been heard from again. Kathleen sees something in Natalie that reminds her of Susannah, and she decides to help Natalie if she can. For Kathleen cannot believe how easily she lost Susannah who was lost on drugs and Kathleen’s inability to believe what was in front of her – that her own daughter was lost before she ran away.
Kathleen’s life, like Natalie’s, is in crisis. She lives alone with her dog Lucy and holds a distance between herself and her friend Neil, her gay co-worker, and her other friend Carol, who offers Kathleen fun that Kathleen cannot accept. As Natalie leaves the archives, Kathleen gives Natalie her home phone number, for “emergencies only.”
Natalie is not only floundering with the loss of her father, her only and best friend Hannah, but also the loss of her mother, who drugs herself to sleep in grief. Hannah has allied herself with a popular and mean bully, Taylor Grant, who targets Natalie through vile text messages about her mother’s age. Then Hannah and Taylor put up a We Hate Natalie website and Natalie freezes like a deer in the headlights. She tells Kathleen what is happening, and Kathleen gives her the wrong advice, and Natalie feels like the world has dropped out of her sight.
Then, one day, when Natalie is in her basement looking at pictures in old boxes, she finds a steel box with a diary in it. The diary belongs to an Irish immigrant named Bridget, who is in service to a wealthy family who abuses her. When the husband gets Bridget pregnant, Bridget flees to make another and good life.
Neil, Kathleen and Natalie work on the diary together, for only Neil can read the writing at first. For Natalie wants the diary to be her special school project for Mrs. Ramirez. As Kathleen transcribes the diary on the computer, the diary reveals that Bridget is her father’s relative. Meanwhile, Natalie ends up in the hospital when Hannah and Taylor attack her and grab the diary. Natalie goes to the school counselor about the bullying, but the counselor ignores her. Finally, Kathleen figures out the right way to help.
With a vibrant plot and relevant characters that struggle with their problems and frailties, Moore creates a vista for mothers and daughters. Kathleen bemoans all the “lost girls” as does Moore. Well written and a good book for mothers to read as teenage daughters are as fragile as they are seemingly tough.
So Far Away: A Novel is available at Amazon.com, BN.com and other booksellers.
Ratings are based on a 5-star scale
Review by Broad “A” – Ava
We received a copy of this title for our book review. All opinions are our own.