I finished Vandela Vida's new book last week and it's a very strong second novel.
Her first book generated a bit of praise and she's one to watch.
Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name opens on the day of Clarissa's fathers funeral. Searching through detritus in a desk she finds out that the man who passed unexpectedly
isn't her biological father.
Clarissa's mother, in many ways the highlight of this slim book disappeared over a decade earlier and events lead the betrayed daughter (her affable fiancée knew of her lineage and kept it quiet)
to the north of Finland where she surmises her real father may still live.
Without giving too much away, a cast of Sami (commonly known as Laplanders here) reindeer herders are connected to Clarissa's early life as a result of her mother's youth.
If the architecture of the novel is not uncommon, what Vida is able to do with it is.
Narratives around wounded souls on a journey to heal themselves abound, but Vida has such a cool eye and a hold of her plot, that Clarissa is entirely believable as the wounded, credible toughie.
Let the Northern Lights merges a very American character with a largely unknown subculture and does it pretty much seamlessly. A cast of chilly characters in a cold climate wouldn't seem to portend a book with a strong, beating heart but this is a beauty.
I briefly mentioned Clarissa's mother. Suffice to say the reunion, such as it is; is particularly well done and accords perfectly with the oblique nature of the search.
As I was reading Vida's novel I was struck by how her prose and pace felt similar to some of my longtime favourites. That's not at all to say Vida is derivative, just that I felt sure that A.M Homes and Doris Lessing may have whispered into Vida's ear from time to time.
This is a young novelist who is at the top of her game early. That's a fine thing, indeed.
Posted by Dave