The sounds of unexpected tragedies—a roll of thunder, the crash of metal on metal—leave Miranda in shock amid the ruins of her broken family.
As she searches for new meaning in her life, Miranda finds quiet refuge with her family’s handyman, Dix, in his cabin in the dark forests of the Adirondack Mountains. Dix is kind, dependable, and good with an ax—the right man to help the sheltered Miranda heal—but ultimately, her sadness creates a void even Dix can’t fill.
When a man from her distant past turns up, the handsome idealist now known as Darius, he offers Miranda a chance to do meaningful work at The Source, a secluded property filled with his nature worshipers. Miranda feels this charismatic guru is the key to remaking her life, but her grief and desire for love also create an opportunity for his deception. And in her desperate quest to find herself after losing almost everything, Miranda and Dix could pay a higher price than they ever imagined.
North of Here is a story of contrasts and characters. Of two men. Of two women. Of those born into wealth but walking around poor in spirit. Of those personalities who are self-sufficient and of the ones who always seem to need a rescue.
As I read Laurel Saville’s latest novel, I was struck especially by the differences in the four main characters, seen acutely in the narrative written from these four perspectives in turn. Perhaps most haunting to me was Miranda – the daughter of wealthy parents who loses everything familiar in a matter of months. Yet, for all the wealth she thought she had, she lacks purpose, confidence, and the ability to receive love when it finally comes her way. As a result, she wanders restlessly through her own life in search of what’s missing. The intertwining of Miranda’s narrative with Dix’s was the most heartbreaking. Dix is the hero character, the one who rescues. The one who loves. The healthiest one of the four, by far, and my favorite of the group. Another character called him, “a very good man who had no idea how good he was.” Conversely, Dix is also probably the character who suffers the most pain.
North of Here is also a story that goes deeper than what appears at surface level. An uninhabitable log house, held onto for someone who didn’t really want it, left to go back to nature because “some things just can’t be fixed.” I saw so many parallels between this house and one of the main characters. Another house in the novel also seemed analogous of a main character, this one built around a menagerie of “guru-isms” and false hope. A toxic trailer. A bag of shorn hair. A ring. All of these devices – while useful to the story as objects in and of themselves – could easily be interpreted to carry a metaphoric meaning as well.
Bottom Line: North of Here is not an easy read; rather, its complex characters and poignant plot devices will unsettle you. In places, the writing style was more blunt than I prefer. Still, Laurel Saville has penned a hauntingly unusual story that is not quite romantic fiction and not quite psychological thriller. It is a tale of survival and tragedy. It is a portrait of how grief shapes us, of how wealth shapes us… ultimately of how people shape us. But perhaps most poetically, it is a reminder that “some things just need to be let go” while others need to be held tight and cherished.
(I received a copy of this book in exchange for only my honest review.)
My Rating: 3.5 stars / Liked it!
(Disclaimer: While I review mostly Christian fiction on my blog, this novel is not in that category. As such, there are some elements present that you will not find in Christian fiction. Please approach accordingly.)
About the Author:
Laurel Saville is the award-winning author of the memoir Unraveling Anne, the novel Henry and Rachel, and the four-part short story “How Much Living Can You Buy,” as well as numerous essays, short stories, and articles. She has an MFA in Creative Writing and Literature from the Writing Seminars at Bennington College.
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