I suppose you'd call So Far Away "chick lit" (which is not my favorite term), because it's a story about girls and women, and relationships, some broken, and some just beginning. But it's chick lit with a serious focus. Published in 2012 by Reagan Arthur Books, this new novel by Meg Mitchell Moore centers around two main characters, Kathleen Lynch, an archivist at a library in Massachusetts, and Natalie Gallagher, a thirteen-year-old who's intrigued by the discovery of a diary of a domestic servant, Bridget O'Connell Callaghan, from County Kerry, Ireland. When Natalie visits the library to research the life of this Irish immigrant, Kathleen and Natalie begin a friendship, slowly and tentatively. Kathleen, a widow, is estranged from her only child, Susannah, and sees bits of her daughter in Natalie. Natalie is the target of cyber bullying in the form of nasty, threatening text messages sent to her phone by her former best friend, Hannah, and a "popular" girl, Taylor."Natalie had no answer to this question. It was all too much to bear; the fainting, the laughing, her inadvertent insulting of Taylor. This too she would have to pay for--she would have to pay for all of it, and the price would be high."
~So Far Away, Meg Mitchell Moore
So Far Away held my attention firmly, although the cyberbullying provoked my anger and frustration. The behavior of Hannah and Taylor disgusted me; I wondered why some girls become "mean girls" at the age of thirteen or fourteen. (I guess it's hormonal, but why does it become intense and dangerous, in some cases?) This aspect of the story is a main focus, which upset me and made me want to hug my own teenage daughters.
Overall, I found the book quite compelling and plausible. Bridget's diary, read to Natalie by Kathleen's friend and co-worker, Neil, is fascinating, and was a welcome relief from the relentless cyberbullying. I enjoyed reading about the gradually developing friendship between Kathleen and Natalie (I sensed that they would have a special connection early in my reading), and I hoped that they'd be able to help each other. Meg Mitchell Moore is a terrifically skilled writer, and I read the novel eagerly, hoping (of course) that things would work out well for both Kathleen and Natalie. The ending of this story is excellent; matters are not tied up too neatly, but are instead resolved in a more realistic manner (this book could even have a sequel). I'd definitely read more books by this author, such as The Arrivals (which came out in paperback in May), or future works.
The Reagan Arthur Books Challenge, a reading challenge I've revisited after a hiatus, hosted by Kathy from BermudaOnion's Weblog and Julie from Booking Mama. Special thanks to Lisa for sending me an advanced copy of this book. I took a small liberty and quoted from this novel; the final version of the book may be different from the one I read. Your comments are welcomed, as always.