Let The Northern Lights Erase Your Name

Welcome back. This month the MC book club considers one woman's search for her father, her mother and her own identity in Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name.


What would you do if you found out your father wasn't really your father? And you couldn't interrogate your mother about it because she disappeared 14 years earlier? Why not do as Vendela Vida's 28-year-old heroine Clarissa Iverton did: seek out your roots in Finland's icy and exotic Lapland and discover some chilling truths.

LUCY: (Executive Editor) ( I enjoyed the book, but I had a problem with the self- consciousness of the writing — like when she compares her fiance's eyes to the color of the papaya seeds. I mean, I don't know what color papaya seeds are. Am I supposed to run to the botanical dictionary?

LAUREN: Articles Editor) ( Right, why have all that cute clausey, clausey, clause clause language? But sometimes her metaphors really worked.

LUCY: Eh —sometimes. When she said Henrik smelled like a hamster she used to own, I thought that was a perfectly good description of how a guy named Henrik could smell. But —

LAUREN: Or "Everything around me felt familiar yet amiss, like the first time you ride in the backseat of your own car," I liked that. I got that.

SARAH: (Editorial Assistant) I was really impressed that there was a story.

LUCY: Yeah, I found the idea of having to find out what the deal is with your mother who abandoned you extremely compelling and moving. I mean, it's just basic stuff, and if it sends you to the ends of the earth, I believe it absolutely could.

YAEL: (Associate Editor) But the main character just pissed me off! I mean, if it were me, I would definitely want to find my mother. But I'd like to think I wouldn't completely overlook the people who were there for me. So what if her dad wasn't her biological father? He treated her like his own.

SARAH: The thing that's going to make me throw up is when people say that Lapland (or what have you) is a character in this book.

YAEL: …And all that ice is a stand in for the icy mother…

SARAH: I mean, her mother was pretty freakin' awful. When she says, "You poor thing, you always tried so hard to get a reaction from me." What the —

LUCY: See, I didn't feel like her mother was being malicious. I just felt like she was who she was. It's probably just something she was looking at with a degree of disconnection because she was never really in this mother-daughter relationship, in the way one hopes mothers typically are. It was like this quizzical "What do you want from me?"

YAEL: Well, there was a brief moment when Clarissa overhears her mother crying late at night and goes to her. And her mom says "You have no idea what I've been through."

LUCY: You know what I thought was so weird — at the end she says "I didn't forgive her, but I could understand what had possessed her to do what she had done…You could not erase a rape – you would always be either a victim or survivor." What's with that? After all this incredible ellipticalness, it's suddenly like a pamphlet from a crisis center.

YAEL: Right, like "Ohhh, okay, I get why you left now." But the whole end was rushed and unfinished. All of a sudden, she goes off to Hong Kong to start a new life? Live happily ever after, just like that?

LAUREN: And she's pregnant with her ex-fiancee's baby!

YAEL: Right! Now her own daughter is never going to know her biological father either?! Vida writes in the Afterword that she was "curious about the kind of person who would see their past as unconnected to their present." But her kid is totally connected to her past! God! Talk about baggage…

LAUREN: Yeah, I don't know anybody who could just start fresh and meet someone new like she does and not fill him in on where's she been.

LUCY: …because so many of us have that defining urge to be known — even the bad stuff. I mean, you are who you are.

LAUREN: It's like, "You know, I used to be wild."

LUCY: Right. Or, "I killed a guy once."

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