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A Reader of Fictions: Dear Diary - Travis

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Dear Diary - Travis

So Far Away

Author: Meg Mitchell Moore
Pages: 336
ARC Acquired from: Little, Brown and Company via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Description from Goodreads:
Thirteen-year-old Natalie Gallagher is trying to escape: from her parents' ugly divorce, and from the vicious cyber-bullying of her former best friend. She discovers a dusty old diary in her family's basement and is inspired to unlock its secrets.

Kathleen Lynch, an archivist at the Massachusetts State Archives, has her own painful secrets: she's a widow estranged from her only daughter. Natalie's research brings her to Kathleen, who in Natalie sees traces of the daughter she has lost.

What could the life of an Irish immigrant domestic servant from the 1920s teach them both? In the pages of the diary, they will learn that their fears and frustrations are timeless.

So Far Away is an affecting story of mothers and daughters and how solace can be found in the most unlikely places.

First Sentence: "It was a Friday when the girl came into the Archives for the first time, the first Friday after they'd changed the clocks."

I make no secret of my affinity for books about libraries and librarians. If I see that it's about a librarian, I will add a book to my to-read list, except maybe the romance novels, and, should I spot one of those at Goodwill, I would probably by it, later forcing my friends to listen to a dramatic reading, because that's just the kind of person I am. Anyway, I'm pretty sure I requested this because of the word 'archivist' in the description, because I think otherwise I would have let this pass me by. I'm glad I didn't.

The archives scenes were a very small part of the novel, but they were right at the front, so Moore got me nice and hooked. Natalie enters the archives and asks for help with a project for school. She wants to research her family's genealogy. Kathleen gives a little spiel about how hard that can be, and I immediately recommended the book to my mom, because she has been crazy obsessed with doing genealogy for the past couple years.

The book doesn't necessarily focus on that, but it's sort of the frame story. More specifically, So Far Away is about the diary that Natalie found, and is going to use to figure out who her family really is. The diary was written by an ancestor during the 1920s. While I have a huge love of history, and am very interested in that time period, I was really bored by the diary. The rest of the book, while somewhat slow moving, maintained my interest, but I really just did not have any stake in the fate of the bridget named Bridget.

In addition to comments on genealogical and archival work, the other thing I loved was the parts about bullying. Natalie is being bullied by her former best friend, who has found a new, more popular, meaner best friend. They send threatening all caps texts (YOU KNOW THIS IS THREATENING) and even create a website about how much they hate her. Kathleen senses this and tries to help, while Natalie's parents and the school are ignorant and/or unwilling to step in. The story puts forward the idea that modern bullying is a whole different thing than it used to be. I thought this was timely and well done.

The one thing I definitely did not approve of was Lucy, Kathleen's dog. Don't get me wrong; I loved the god. However, Lucy was pretty much Kathleen's only family (since Kathleen's daughter ran away years before). Yet, I am supposed to believe that Kathleen would not notice that her dog was getting perpetually sicker throughout the novel. I just don't buy it. She would have had Lucy to the vet on the second or third day of her not eating. If the dog is basically your replacement child, you're going to be worried, even in the midst of your research and concerns about Natalie. End of story.

So Far Away is a touching story about two troubled souls forming an unlikely bond, and trying to learn how to face the future. The pace is slow and contemplative, and I recommend to those who like a thought-provoking read.

Rating: 3/5

Favorite Quote: "We've all got our own brand of crazy."

"Dear Diary,
What is wrong with me?
'Cos I'm fine between the lines
Be not afraid
Help is on its way

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Blogger Kimberly @ Caffeinated Reviewer said...

This sounds interesting and I agree no dog owner wouldn't notice that their "baby" was getting sicker. Awesome review

June 1, 2012 at 3:47 PM  

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