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Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name: A Novel

Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name: A Novel

Автор Vendela Vida

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Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name: A Novel

Автор Vendela Vida

3/5 (326 оценки)
301 страница
3 часа
13 окт. 2009 г.

Примечание редактора

Dive into an exotic land…

In writing about women having identity crises, Vendela Vida presents travel as a way to escape life’s painful truths. Her books invite us to dive into an exotic land, where we can — for a few hours — be free, too.


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.

13 окт. 2009 г.

Об авторе

Vendela Vida is the award-winning author of six books, including Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name and The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty. Her new novel, We Run the Tides, will be published by Ecco on February 9, 2021. She is a founding editor of The Believer and coeditor of The Believer Book of Writers Talking to Writers and Confidence, or the Appearance of Confidence, a collection of interviews with musicians. She was a founding board member of 826 Valencia, the San Francisco writing center for youth, and lives in the Bay Area with her family.

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Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name - Vendela Vida

Be Loved


It was three in the afternoon when my plane landed at the Helsinki airport, but outside my window, dusk was already settling in like a bruise. I retrieved my suitcase, its handle cold, and stumbled to the tourist information desk, where a woman with good teeth and bad English helped me find a hotel near the train station. My plan was to take the first train north, to Lapland, after a night of sleep. She directed me toward the hotel’s free shuttle bus waiting outside. Its doors opened just as I was preparing to knock.

The blond bus driver’s name tag said ARI, but he told me, the only passenger on the bus, that his name was Kari. The name tag belonged to his twin brother, for whom he was filling in (would I please not tell anybody about that, he asked). When it was clear no one else would be boarding, Ari/Kari turned and spoke to the general area where I was sitting. We go now, he said.

We trailed a snowplow on the road into Helsinki. On the radio, a man’s voice sang in English about the pleasures of driving home for Christmas. I asked Kari if he would mind turning it down, and he turned the radio off.

The hotel had three stars on the plaque beneath its name—one star more than I was accustomed to—and I experienced the vacuous pride travelers feel when a choice that’s been made for them is a good one. Inside, Kari took my luggage upstairs to reception, at which point, he moved behind the counter to check me in. No-smoking, one night, I told him.

Shortly after I settled into my room, the phone stuttered a staccato cry, far from an American brrring. It was Kari telling me he’d be getting off work in an hour. You like to join me in the lobby for a drink? he asked.


I said yes, in part out of relief that the call wasn’t from Pankaj, my fiancé. My fiancé still? I was no longer sure. Recently, everything around me felt familiar yet amiss, like the first time you ride in the back seat of your own car.

Dad had died a week before I left for Lapland. He was sixty-six, his death unexpected. A heart attack. Pankaj had answered the phone. I was in bed, paying bills, in the Morningside Heights apartment Pankaj and I had shared for nearly five years. He came into the bedroom, tentatively, and knelt on the floor beside me. He did not pray.

Your father, he said. Your father.

We left that night for Rhinebeck, where I had grown up. Where Dad had grown up. Where my mother had lived for fifteen years before she disappeared.


I had hired the new Hungarian florist in town to do the flower arrangement. A mistake. A ruby banner hung diagonally, like a beauty contestant’s sash, across a garish bouquet near the casket. In large silver lettering: BE LOVED.

The funeral was the first day I envied my brother’s ignorance. Since birth, Jeremy has never spoken, so it was unclear whether he understood Dad had died. My family would never acknowledge that Jeremy was retarded; my mother used to say he was slow. She vanished when I was fourteen, Jeremy six. In the hollow months that followed her disappearance, I convinced myself our family was being punished for our silent shame about Jeremy. I said the forbidden word over and over—retardedretardedretarded—as though I could undo what was fact: I could unretard him, I could bring my mother home.

While I wiped my tears with my hair—I had forgotten tissues—Jeremy picked at the laces of his dress-up shoes. I bent over, pulled the laces out, and slipped them into my purse. Jeremy was accustomed to Velcro.

A family friend held a reception. Unthawed frozen strawberries, kosher wine, though Dad wasn’t Jewish, a woman I had never met sobbing in the corner. Friends and strangers hugged me so tight their chests pushed against mine, alluding to sex, and then vanished. As soon as the last guest had left, the hostess began vacuuming. All those footprints in the carpet, she said. They make me tense. I offered to help clean up. She accepted.

Pankaj and I dropped off Jeremy at the Home for Retarded Adults. The main hallway was lined with display cases of women’s hats and men’s ties. I didn’t know why. As I stood below a beret, reporting to the nurse when and what Jeremy had last eaten, Pankaj handed Jeremy a paper bag filled with small plastic bags. The size that wouldn’t fit over his head. Jeremy had a thing for plastic bags.

That was sweet, I said, as we walked to the car. My words didn’t match the intensity of my gratitude. From the start, Pankaj had looked out for Jeremy.

We drove back to Dad’s house, where we had been staying since we got the phone call. We had left a few lights on, and as we approached the front door, I half-imagined it had been a hoax. Dad was alive and waiting to surprise us. I unlocked the door. Hello, I called out.

Pankaj started a fire in the living room. I stared at his large lips and his gray-black eyes, the color of papaya seeds. They were framed by long eyelashes, the kind that old ladies on trains made a fuss over. Pankaj could bat them like a flirtatious girl and somehow look virile, handsome, strong.

But tonight his eyes were tunnel-dark, his eyelashes fey. He was moving slowly, the way you would around a predator you didn’t want to enrage. I escaped to my father’s study.

The study had been my mother’s. She claimed to be working on her dissertation on the environmental battles of indigenous peoples. It was her research that initially took her to Lapland in her late twenties. While there, she’d gotten sidetracked—that was her word, her explanation. She would sequester herself in the study for a few hours every afternoon, ostensibly writing, but there was a silent understanding in our house that her dissertation would never be finished.

I sat down in Dad’s leather chair and opened the drawers of his desk—her desk. I found his address book. Inside, under our last name, Iverton, there were no entries. This was odd: Dad had written me once a month since I’d moved out. Scribbled in miniature handwriting, his letters had described landscaping projects he was working on, or summarized, in too much detail, a film he had recently seen.

I found myself in the ABC section, under Clar. My mother had named me Clarissa, but Dad never called me by my full name. Penned into the book were four addresses for me: one P.O. box in college, one address in Lexington, Kentucky, two in Manhattan. He had entered my new address each time I’d moved and never crossed out the old one. I tried to imagine me living in each of these apartments, carrying on four different lives at once. In my Kentucky life, would my father be dead?

I didn’t recognize the majority of names. I assumed these were the owners of homes he had helped landscape. Why hadn’t more of his clients shown up for the funeral? The service had been small.

I sorted through the drawers—old bills, letters postmarked in the early nineties, sea glass, owner’s manuals to appliances we no longer owned. In the bottom drawer, I found a large manila envelope that appeared not to have been opened more than once or twice. CLARISSA’S was written on the outside. She had been gone for fourteen years, but I immediately recognized my mother’s handwriting. Her S’s were exuberant, forward-leaning 8’s.

I shook the contents out onto the desk: grade-school report cards, notes from teachers commenting on my shyness in class. I didn’t recall this about myself, and was surprised and strangely embarrassed—we like to remember our childhoods a certain way. I sorted through watercolors—age 7 written in one corner—a note to the tooth fairy, a photo of me in front of the Washington Monument, wearing a dress patterned with keys.

Beneath a dried leaf, splitting at its stem, I found my birth certificate. I had never seen it before. I read it and read it again. I turned it over. With my forearm, I swept everything else on the desk into a far corner. Papers and a desk calendar dropped to the floor. I moved the certificate to the center of the desk and I read it again.


Pankaj found me sitting on the shower floor, still wearing my bra and black stockings. He stood, blurry, on the other side of the clear door. The birth certificate was in his hand. Do you want to talk? he said.

I shook my head. I was emptying the bottles of Dad’s dandruff shampoo, like tar, down the drain. Pankaj carefully placed the birth certificate inside the cover of a book about Vargas girls; it had been sitting above the toilet since he had given it to Dad the previous Christmas. Inside, I knew the inscription read: To Richard, my future father-in-law. With admiration, Pankaj. Pankaj took off his clothes, opened the shower door, and sat next to me on the tiled floor.

The water’s colder when you’re sitting, he said, and reached up to adjust the temperature. He picked up the blue bar of soap, Dad’s soap, and rubbed it under my armpits. He took my Dad’s other, non-dandruff shampoo, and washed my hair. We sat in the shower so long the water turned tepid. Pankaj stood up, stepped out, and held a towel open for me.

I crawled out of the shower, and Pankaj bent over and rolled off my stockings and unhooked my bra. He wrapped me in the towel and picked me up. I couldn’t raise my arms around his neck or help in any way.

He carried me into my childhood bedroom, which had not changed: twin beds, a Sears stereo, and a hundred tiny holes in the wall where I’d thumbtacked my album covers. Pankaj put a blanket over me, tucking it in like he was making a bed. Then he left the room.

I stared at a photo of my father on the bookshelf. His arms like a game-show host, displaying a washer and dryer he bought when I was fifteen. Laundry had been my mother’s job, one that we both resisted taking on when she was gone. He had believed the new machines would make her absence less obvious. It had been my favorite picture of my father, but now it seemed to belong to some other teenager.

Pankaj returned.

He should have told me, I said to his silhouette.

He was protecting you. He—

He was a liar.

Pankaj was holding a bowl and a spoon.

Applesauce, he said. It’s all that was in the fridge.

Didn’t anyone bring anything over? I asked. Isn’t that what people do?

Sorry, he said.

Sorry? I said. What are you sorry about? You’re the only one who doesn’t have anything to apologize for.

He didn’t answer, and, at the time, I took this as a sign of modesty. We both twisted into the same twin bed.

A few hours later, I learned why he was sorry.

Are you awake? he said.

I nodded and then said yes.

I knew.

You knew what?

I knew about Richard. That he wasn’t your real dad.

In the dark, I tried to see Pankaj’s mouth.

How long have you known? I said. I spoke slowly. I didn’t want any room for misinterpretation.

A long time.

Like days?

Longer. Since we were—

Engaged? I said.



He said nothing.


Your mom told me.

What? Why?

Well, let me think about what happened.

Pankaj was stalling, preparing a lie.

Don’t make me wait.

Your mom told my mom.

Fifteen years ago?

About that time.

Fifteen years! Almost half my life. More than half my life.

Pankaj exhaled.

So everybody knows? Dad knew? My mom? You, Gita? Gita! Your fucking mom knows who my real fucking father is and I don’t? What the fuck is this? Does the fucking florist who can’t even fucking spell know?


Really, Pankaj. Was this posted at the train station?

I didn’t want to know. I wish I didn’t.

Fuck you, I said. And tonight was the right time to tell me?

I’m sorry, he said. I guess I felt deceitful, with you in the shower like that. I thought it would make things easier if I told you I knew. Later, you would never forgive me.

I switched on the bedside lamp. I stood up, stared at the bookshelf, pulled at the spine of my first-year Russian textbook and threw it to the floor. The carpet absorbed its thud. I had wanted thunder.

Of all days to tell me, I said, and threw down another book, this one a dictionary, unabridged.

Stop saying that, Pankaj yelled, and stop with the books.

You and Dad are the same. When you don’t tell someone something like that, you are fucking with their life.

I understand how you must feel, he said. He was sitting up in bed. He was wearing one of Dad’s old sweatshirts.

Take that off, I said.

I’m sorry. I didn’t pack well. He removed the sweatshirt, folded it neatly, and placed it on the bedside table.

First of all, you do not understand how I feel. So take that back.

You’re right. I don’t know, but I can imagine…

Imagine! You can’t imagine anything. Has every person you know been betraying you for fifteen years?

Not everyone knows—

Shut up. Has everyone close to you—your father, your fiancé, your who-the-fuck-knows been lying to you? Answer me.

No, he said. He stood to comfort me.

Stay away, I said. I pulled an old doll off the shelf and held it between us.

He stared at the doll, as though addressing her. I know you’re angry with me right now.

You’re a genius, really. Not only at philosophy, but at emotions. You know that I’m angry with you. Wow.

What can I do for you? he said. I think you need some sleep. Everything will be better in the morning. He looked scared.

"Really? Will Dad not be dead in the morning? Will my fiancé not be a liar? Will

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Что люди думают о Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name

326 оценки / 36 Обзоры
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  • (5/5)
    Loved this one. I enjoyed traveling with Clarissa to Finland and learning about the Sami people. I love her writing.
  • (4/5)
    I got this as an impulse buy in a $2 sale at Borders. I was pretty sure it would be a good idea. Once I checked Goodreads it turned out I'd read a 5 star review not long ago, but I think that even if it hadn't been I would still have remembered it for its completely totally amazing title. (I was a little sad when I learned Vida borrowed it from a poem of the same name. But it's ok.)I still didn't know what I was going to be getting, though -- the back flap describes answers being found at a hotel made of ice. Would that be real? Why yes it would.Clarissa is a great narrator. She's really easy to understand, and some of her keener moments of despair are really painful. "I felt like a shattered window." Her constant travel is really effective for this story, and you feel tired right along with her. I'm not the biggest fan of the trope when a woman with a bad mother solves the equation by becoming a mother herself, but that was somewhat effective here too.Tiny problem: it wasn't clear why, near the end, she kept thinking the snowmobiler was going to kill her on their way to the cabin? It looked really irrational so I wondered if we were supposed to start doubting her, or what's going on. It was an important and suspenseful part of the journey, so confusion was sort of distracting. And it connects to one of my only disbelief-suspending problems, which is that Clarissa does a lot of things that are a really bad idea for a woman to do alone while traveling anywhere. She's not cautious. I like her lack of caution, as a trait in the story, but it's not quite indicated to us that the author is thinking about it either.The major theme in the book is very strong: "I recognized the desire to erase someone." Though she's also extremely painful, it was interesting to sometimes understand Olivia really well too. I think I'd like to read the philosophy article Vida mentions in the back, "Against Narravity," about whether everyone always connects the present to the past.
  • (4/5)
    Have you ever had the rug pulled out from under you? That's the case with the main character of Let The Northern Lights Erase Your Name. Clarissa Iverton is a twenty-something subtitle writer who, upon her father's death, discovers that he was not her biological father. Feeling betrayed by this secret,  Clarissa flees to Finland in hopes of finding her father - and more about herself.Upon arriving in Finland, she ventures above the Arctic Circle to the land predominantly inhabited by the native Sami people. Sami are indigenous to the Lapland - an area where Clarissa's mother, Olivia, had spent some time before Clarissa was born. Olivia took off when Clarissa was only 14, and between the death of her dad and the unknown identity of her biological father, Clarissa was like a boat lost at sea. Thankfully, she met people along the way who helped her discover the truth about her lineage.Vendela Vida does a phenomenal job depicting Finland, its people and heritage. You get a good dose of history in this book, which should delight most history buffs. As Clarissa journeys through the Lapland, you can't help but root for her, hoping she finds peace as she learns more about her mother and father. More importantly, you hope Clarissa learns to accept what life has dealt her, and unlike her mother, deal with the issues head on.The title of this book is derived from a poem by Sami writer, Marry A. Somby, and it's the perfect title for Clarissa's story. Let The Northern Lights Erase Your Name is a fast-moving, suspenseful tale that should be liked by fans of literary fiction. I know I enjoyed this book immensely.
  • (4/5)
    Simpler and more beautiful than her first, this novel is exactly what happens when you freak-out and head towards the pole. Worth it for the premise and ending alone.
  • (1/5)
    After finding out that the man she believed to be her father wasn't Clarissa abandons her life in new york and heads for lapland looking for her real father. She walks out on her fiance without telling him or anybody else for that matter where she is going.
    While it is understandable that she might want some answers I cannot sympathise with her, she is completely unlikeable and is mean and nasty to pretty much everybody she meets along the way even people whose only crime is to be nice to her and help her.
    I don't like the way she handled a phone call to her brother who has Down Syndrome and has never spoken, she thinks the way to get a response from him is to shout and swear at him.
    I also don't like the ending, she never meets the father that she is looking for as it turns out her mother was raped although she does meet his family and she does find her mother who had walked out on her family when Clarissa was fourteen. The mother and clarissa had been on a christmas shopping trip and she abandoned clarissa at the mall and was never seen again until clarissa finds her in lapland. She feels no remorse for what she did and this upsets clarissa although given that she walked out on her life without telling anybody where she was going and at the end decides that despite being pregnant with her fiance's baby she is not going home and she is not going to tell him about the baby. I don't like that the writer has made it so easy for clarissa to walk away from her life with no complications.
  • (4/5)
    A self-knowledge quest, performed while grieving. It could be ponderous or unsatisfying but isn't.
  • (3/5)
    Short and spare, there are moments of real beauty in this novel about figuring out who you are when the things you thought you knew about yourself turn out to be lies. Still, there was something distancing about the characters which made it hard to really get swept along.
  • (4/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    The first time I picked this book up and read 10 pages I put it back down, certain I would never read it. If this happens to you, give it a second chance. Six months later I read it over a period of two days. It is a quick read. Major themes are abandonment, communication, relationships. Totally drew me in and made me care about the narrator.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (4/5)
    A bleak novel about a woman who, upon her father’s death, finds her birth certificate and discovers he is not really her father. Clarissa leaves her fiancé with no notice, and heads to Finland where her mother had lived at the time of her conception. Clarissa’s mother, too, had disappeared when Clarissa was young without a word to anyone. Clarissa thinks she has found her father, the Finnish minister who was deserted by her mother, but the story is much deeper than that. As Clarissa moves around Finland searching for her father, she discovers a very caring group of Finnish people who welcome her, a stranger.
  • (4/5)
    It is sometimes very hard to explain why a book affects one the way it does. This was such a perfect little book, quiet and unassuming ,but an in depth study of a young woman's mind when she finds out that everything she believes in, is not the truth. Clarissa's mother abandoned her, her father and mentally challenged brother, when she was fourteen. After her father dies she makes the shocking discovery that he was not her real father, that her mother had been married before to a Sami priest. Her fiance apparently knew the truth and kept it from her as well. Reeling from a double betrayal, she sets out in an attempt to find answers.Her travels take her to Lapland, the indigenous Sami people, reindeer herders with a very distinctive look. Of course I had to google to find pictures and Wiki for more information on the Sami. Google and Wiki, sounds almost like a dance. Even though this is an exotic locale, not many descriptions are to be found, only those that Clarissa sees, since most of the action is her thoughts, her feelings and her impressions. We journey with her to the ice hotel and it is here that we finally get answers along with Clarissa. Now that she has closed off her past, the only available option is for her to make a new future. I liked the short paragraphs, the straightforward writing, and seeing things just from Clarissa's view. Not that I agreed with everything she did, but I did understand why she felt that way. The writing is wonderful, and I liked that it had a different kind of ending. Not happily ever after, all answers as she wanted them, but a different future that she makes, one that allows her to move forward.One interesting fact: The Sami believe that the Northern Lights look like fires and that they are their ancestors. I thought that was beautiful.
  • (5/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    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.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (4/5)
    This short novel, written plainly, economically and well, centers on a young woman’s search for identity. It takes the heroine, Clarissa, to Lapland, where she finds lost bits of her family history.
  • (4/5)
    It was the title that led me to pick up this book in the library. I loved it. With an economy of words the author sets out the story; one of abandonment, identity and survival. There are wonderful vivid sketches of Finland / Lappland and I really felt the cold. However, there are too many major conincidences!
  • (4/5)
    Light as air, yet compelling.
  • (3/5)
    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.
  • (5/5)
    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.
  • (4/5)
    Initially, it was the book's title that caught my attention. Although I think it was a bit of a cheat for Vida to borrow it from a Sami poet, it fit the novel perfectly. Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name tracks Clarissa Iverton's search for her unknown biological father, the mother who abandoned her when she was 14, and, in the end, her own identity. Her quest takes her to the northermost parts of Lapland, where she encounters Sami culture, an elderly woman healer, and even a snow hotel.In an interview in the back of the book, Vida says she was surprised that many readers disliked her main character. While I have to agree that her actions were impulsive, reckless, and selfish (and that I didn't find her funny, as Vida intended), Clarissa needed to be all of those things to make the necessary connection between her self and her parents. We are what we inherit, and we are what we experience--at least until we make a conscious decision to change.I started the book while waiting for a flight and had almost finished it by the time I arrived at my destination about four hours later. (Having to wait to get to those last 25 pages was a killer!) It's fast-paced and engaging, and the structure (it's broken into short segments) pulls the reader along. While some readers have complained that they wanted more details, I felt that Vida's crisp, stark style perfectly reflected the strangeness of the landscape, which was bitterly cold, relentlessly dark despite the brilliance of the snow, and often threatening. It wouldn't have been the same book had it been filled with descriptive details; it was meant to focus on Clarissa's personal and emotional journey, and it did. My star rating was held down a bit by some illogical leaps in the plot, a few too many coincidences, and an ending that was a bit too neatly tied up. Still, I'd definitely recommend Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name.
  • (3/5)
    The life of a woman is upturned when her father dies: desperate to understand the earlier abandonment of her mother, she travels to Scandinavia in search of answers. Unusual and affecting, but ultimately left me feeling chilled.
  • (3/5)
    This is probably a story I'll soon forget but the setting was memorable. It starts out in New York when Clarissa, a 28 year old woman, is burying her father. In going through his papers, she finds her birth certificate and discovers her father is actually someone she's never heard of. Both her mother, who walked out on the family when Clarissa was 14, and her fiance, who she soon discovers knew the secret about her father, never saw fit to tell her about it. Within days, Clarissa decides to try and find her real father who she believes is a Sami from Lapland (which is north of Finland and the Arctic Circle) and by the end of the first chapter she's travelled to Finland to begin her search. Most of the book is set in Lapland during the winter months and it's cold and bleak and dark but in some strange way also haunting and magical. For some reason, I'm drawn to books that do a good job describing extremes of climate, which in real life I avoid at all costs. The setting mirrors Clarissa's feelings of abandonment and isolation and the writing is often very good. The story was unusual enough to keep me interested (Lapland, the Sami people, reindeer herding, ice hotels and a twist towards the end that I didn't see coming) but I just never loved the book. I'm giving this book 3 stars. I liked the writer enough to try something else she's written but I don't think I'm going to be recommending it.
  • (5/5)
    On the day of her father's funeral, Clarissa learns that her father wasn't her biological father. To make matters worse, her fiance had know the truth for fifteen years and didn't tell her. Without parents, her mother had left when she was fourteen, Clarissa ventures to the Arctic Circle to find her biological father and discover the truth of her birth.
  • (4/5)
    This book is about Clarissa, a 28 year old woman whose father has just died and whose mother abandoned her family when Clarissa was 14. When Clarissa finds out that the man she thought was her father wasn't, and that her real father is a Sami priest in Lapland, she sets off on a journey to find out where she really comes from.Vendela Vida's writing is very spare. Not a word is wasted - she tells the story she has to tell and nothing more. There is no flowery language, or long descriptions. I really liked this way of writing as it made it a very easy book to read, and I found myself racing through it to find out what Clarissa's true past was. However, the author left out a lot of emotion (in fact, I thought there was hardly any in what could have been an emotive book) and I think the story suffered a little for this, as it made it hard for me to empathise with Clarissa.I think this was a good read, an interesting narrative with a setting that was almost the star of the show, but ultimately probably not that memorable. I do think it's a book that is worth reading though, as it has an unusual feel to it.
  • (4/5)
    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.
  • (4/5)
    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.
  • (4/5)
    Clarissa is shocked to learn her father is not her biological father. She travels north of the Arctic Circle to try to find her father, believed to be a Sami, a member of the indigenous population. She is successful in finding the man who was her mother’s first husband, but this man only offers more revelations. The book has a dreamlike quality that I liked. The end was very satisfying.
  • (4/5)
    How do we find ourseves? 28 years old Clarissa, abandoned by her mother as a young teen, discovers she is also not the daughter of the man she thought her father. Her journey to find her father takes her to Lapland where her mother was an anthropology student long ago. The style is elegant and sparse and the setting is wonderful. Not a perfect novel, the ending seems contrived, but haunting and memorable.
  • (4/5)
    Liked this novel about a woman searching for her father in Lapland. I'm always impressed when an author can communicate so much in so few words. The economical prose works especially well with the cold, barren setting of the book
  • (5/5)
    Let The Northern Lights Erase Your Name is the story of Clarissa Iverson - a twenty-nine year old who discovers, upon her father’s death, that everything she thought was true about her family is not. The novel is narrated by Clarissa who is living with her fiance Pankaj when her father unexpectedly dies. The reader learns that Clarissa’s mother had abandoned her family, leaving her daughter stranded in a mall, 15 years earlier.Clarissa, echoing her mother’s abandonment, leaves Pankaj without telling him where she is going and flees to Lapland to locate her “real” father. Her journey introduces her to the mystical Samis, the indigenous people who inhabit the Nordic countries of Norway, Sweden, and Finland as well as the far northern parts of Russia. As the story progresses, Clarissa begins to uncover not only her mother’s darkest secrets, but her own identity.Vendela Vida has written a novel about betrayal, family secrets, shame and its aftermath, and the search for identity. Her prose is spare and injected with a sardonic humor which allows Vida to ironically explore the most devastating of human emotions. The character of Clarissa is raw and honest - and despite her flaws and her final decision (which was not completely unexpected), I liked her. Clarissa’s voice is one to which anyone who has experienced loss can relate. She carries the reader through her story with an urgency that is haunting in its appeal.Vida has created an evocative novel steeped in history and culture. She examines the tough subjects with an honesty which borders on ‘matter-of-fact’ but works for this story. There are not easy answers in this novel which would make it an excellent book to discuss with a reading group. I read Let The Northern Lights Erase Your Name quickly - in the span of one day- because I simply had to know where it would take me. Clarissa is a hard character to forget…I expect I will be thinking of her for quite some time.Highly recommended.
  • (4/5)
    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.
  • (4/5)
    This is a very easy, fast-paced and interesting read. The main character is not likable - she is self-centered and quick to judge others harshly, but she is very believable. One of the themes of the book is the difficulty of understanding others without knowing their experiences in life. Some of the coincidences strained belief, but the story is set in Lapland which has a small population and so probably everyone does know someone who knows someone else.
  • (5/5)
    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.