Title: Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name
Author: Vendela Vida
Release Date: January 2, 2007
Challenge: RYOB 2009, A to Z Challenge,
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Mystery
Rating: 4 out of 5
From the back cover:
On the day of her father’s funeral, twenty-eight-year-old Clarissa Iverton discovers that he wasn’t her biological father after all. Her mother disappeared fourteen years earlier, and her fiancé has just revealed a life-changing secret to her. Alone and adrift, Clarissa travels to mystical Lapland, where she believes she’ll meet her real father. There, at a hotel made of ice, Clarissa is confronted with the truth about her mother’s history, and must make a decision about how—and where—to live the rest of her life.
Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name is a haunting novel that will stick with the reader long after the last page is turned. The writing is beautiful, in its own unique way. Instead of being lush and verbose, it is very spartan and completely clean. Vida doesn’t mince words or cloak her story within the folds of weighty prose. Everything is laid bare; the words are almost raw with emotion and power. Through the stark writing, Clarissa’s confusion and pain becomes very clear to the reader.
There isn’t much character development in Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name, but then, there doesn’t need to be. Clarissa is confused about who she is, so how can Vida develop her for the reader? The book is about discovering the past, not creating a future for the character. Eventually, when Clarissa discovers the truth, she becomes a whole, developed character and can focus on the future. But the novel itself isn’t about taking a character and developing her. Instead, it’s about taking a character who is already mostly developed and dealing with the holes that can no longer be ignored.
I really enjoyed the introduction to Sami culture, as well as the mystery portrayed in the novel. They both provide unique elements to the story; Sami culture gives it an added dimension and teaches the reader. The mystery provides a sense of urgency and propels the story forward, as well as keeps the reader hooked.
One thing that bothered me is how quickly Clarissa took to the idea that the man who raised her wasn’t her biological father. From the few anecdotes that she told of their lives together, he was a caring, devoted, and dependable parent. Why, then, does she call another man “father” after only a day of knowing him? There was definitely a hole punched in Clarissa’s life by her mother, but not her father. Why, then, was she so eager to embrace another man as her father? Did she forget about the contributions the man who raised her made so quickly, just because she found out he wasn’t related to her by blood?
At its core, Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name is about finding yourself. Does where you came from matter, in the grand scheme of things? What determines the person you are now, and the person you will become? These are great questions and Vida tackles them very well. Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name is a great rainy day novel. And considering the fact that the novel is gripping and only around 250 pages, you can count on reading it in one sitting.