Reader reviews for Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name

Clarissa is cleaning up her recently deceased father's apartment when she comes across her birth certificate. She is shocked to discover that the man she has always known to be her father is not biologically related to her. Clarissa is further shocked to discover that her fiance, Pankaj, had known of her parentage many years before but never divulged this information. Clarissa lashes out at him I believe in part because there is really no one else to visit her anger on. Her mother left when she was 14/15, never to be seen again, the man she thought was her father is dead and her only living relative is her developmentally challenged brother who has never spoken. Pankaj becomes her easy scape goat upon whom to rain her venom.I finished this book yesterday and I am still wrestling with how I feel about Clarissa. She is a woman in pain and quite honestly has been for a long time. Even before her mother's disappearance, she was never the best of mothers. Her mother was always flighty, shallow and seemed to pick up and drop people at will. But a parent is a parent and Clarissa misses her mother intensely when she is gone. She even goes searching for her mother on more than one occasion. With this as a backdrop, I can understand some of Clarissa's decisions while shaking my head at others. Upon her discovery of her parentage, she leaves her fiance in New York, without a word to him as to her plans and goes in search of her biological father who lives in Lapland. Her journey reflects a young woman battling emotional issues, anger and a descent into recklessness. She meets and "befriends" a varied cast of characters without a lot of concern for her safety. Its almost like she is dead inside and is looking for a way to get a reaction by putting herself in danger. I was saddened for her while at the same time exasperated at her behavior. By the end, she makes some very drastic decisions that I could not fully fathom. On the one hand I could sympathize with her need to leave her cloying past behind and start anew but why discard so much? I can understand and commiserate with the need to separate from the things and people that have shaped us, but the way in which she makes a clean break is cold and bloodless. Without maybe even realizing or fully acknowledging it, Clarissa becomes like the mother who hurt her so painfully. Clarissa's mother is a very interesting character herself. Here we are presented with a woman who has two children and is unapologetic about casting them aside and moving on. No care, no remorse. It was a bit shocking to read. This is a very quiet and atmospheric book. Reading about life in Lapland reminds me of cold and snow drenched environs where the ice on the ground muffles sound. This cold, bare and frigid setting echoes the plot quite seamlessly.
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a beautifully written book about a young woman's quest first to find her father, and then her mother. Some lovely turns of phrase and poetic prose.
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This book doesn't really have much to recommend it, except its premise. The main character, Clarissa, learns upon her father's death that he is not her biological father. Her real father is a Sami, the indigenous people of northern Scandinavia. Her mother disappeared when she was twelve as well. Clarissa sets off for Finland to try to find her father and learn more about her mother. As I said, the book doesn't have much to recommend it. The writing is not especially interesting and the plot turns out to be not so interesting either, but the setup was so odd and interesting that I kept reading just to find out what happened.
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Refreshingly different- a young American woman abandoned by her mother sets off on a quest to find out the truth about her background- all the way to Lapland. However,I had trouble identifying with the main character and the end was too abrupt.
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Very good. Story of a young woman searching for unknown parts of her past and family. Reminded me of a spare Mona Simpson, in the subject, not in writing style. A memorable and unfamiliar setting, north of the Arctic Circle, with a main character who is not always easy to like or understand. Eero, Hendrick and Anna Kristine are all very definite and well drawn characters. Glad I found and read this book.
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This short novel only took a lazy Saturday to read. For me, reading it was an opportunity to journey to unknown territory. Set in northernmost Lapland amongst the Samis, it chronicles the protagonist's quest to find her birth father. There is an eery synchronicity in experience that key characters share. Confronted with unexpected pregnancies, mother and daughter choose different paths to resolving their fates. It was interesting to note that the original version was approximately 100 pages longer. The neatness and simplicity in which the final version of the story is told adds to its allure. Having put it down a few hours ago, I am left with the feeling of having read something quite profound. Both title and inspiration are taken from a Sami poem. There is definitely poetry here.
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I fashion myself a writer. It’s something I wanted to do from the time I was twelve years old. I will admit freely that although I have the desire, I don’t have the skill. I’m okay with that. I wanted to tell you these things because Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name is the novel I wish I could write.The protagonist is Clarissa, a woman in her late twenties, who learns that the man she thought was her father was in fact not. This leads her on a journey to find the truth. The core of this novel is self-discovery. It’s about finding you are not who you think you are, then casting everything you do know aside to search for the truth. This novel was excellent from start to finish. Ms. Vida has a way of engaging the reader. I really felt that I knew Clarissa, knew how she came to her conclusions. This novel made me catch my breath. It gave me that tight feeling in my chest. I finished reading it over a month ago and I can still vividly feel Clarissa’s confusion, her hurt and anger, her feelings of hopelessness and uncertainty. This is the kind of novel that is dictated by the character, not the author. I think in the end Clarissa made the best decision for herself, one she has to live with, the one that will make her happy.I also enjoyed this novel immensely because up until then I never even heard of Lapland or the Sami people. One of my favorite parts of reading is discovering new places. Ms. Vida does a beautiful job of describing this magical land filled with salt of the earth people. I could see the look in Anna Kristine’s dark eyes, I could taste the saltiness of the reindeer meet, feel the chill of the ice hotel. Even as I write this, I want to pick up this novel and read it again. It’s a complex story simply told. And don’t ask me to borrow my copy, get your own. It’s well worth it.
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I rate this book 5 stars.

I found Vida's style to be sparse and very compelling. I read this novel in one sitting as I didn't want to interrupt the flow. Vida raises big questions about identity, truth, belonging and connections to the past. In her acknowledgements, Vida states it was an essay she read that "made her curious about the kind of person who would see their past as unconnected to their present". This novel was the result of trying to answer that question.
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The sequence of events in this book are written with such simplicity that it almost seems improbable. I had to work hard to suspend my disbelief at how easily the logistics of deciding to disappear from New York to above the artic circle came to Clarissa. Nevertheless the idea that this situation could happen was enough to make me plough through this book in 2 days. To be honest I still haven't decided if it was worth it though.
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Vida tells the story of Clarissa Iverton, a young woman who was raised by her father after being abandoned by her mother. When her father dies, she learns that he wasn't her biological father and sets off to Lapland in search of her real father. The plot twists and turns a few times as Clarissa searches for connection. This book drew me in. The sparse style fit well with a story in which secrets were kept and relationships never developed the closeness that enables a person to feel truly known. Clarissa wasn't always a likeable character, but her desparation was understandable given the circumstances. The ending was somewhat of a surprise, but seemed in keeping with the distance between characters that was maintained throughout the story. Two things kept this from being a great read for me. Sometimes I felt as though the author was trying too hard to write cleverly. The turns of phrase seemed inconsistent with the overall sparse style. The writing sometimes pulled me out of the story. It didn't happen often, but enough to break the flow. I also was fascinated with the details about life in Lapland (e.g., the reindeer herding, the ice hotel), but those details were only sprinkled in. I found myself wanting to become immersed in this culture. In the end, though, I'm glad that I read this book, and I cautiously recommend it.
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