May the northern Lights Erase Your Name
“Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name” is a book as lyrical in its content as its title. More so perhaps because it is largely set in a part of the world which is rarely written about –
Vendela Vida’s second novel is part travelogue, describing the Sami country and their stark landscape, their reindeers, their stark and simple churches and buildings. It is also a description of an inner journey – a journey of two women a mother and a daughter each running away from a scarred past and hoping that running away will bring the relief that only spiritual healing can bring.
The mother and daughter are Olivia and Cecilia. Olivia, an American girl of the hippie generation who has a secret which she shared with her friend and her husbands (two of them) but not with the daughter Cecilia. Cecilia knows the secret only when her dad (the second husband suddenly dies and she has to sort out his papers. By that time her mother has left home and husband and been missing fourteen years. When in grief, she turns to her fiancée- an Indian by the name of Pankaj who teaches philosophy, she discovers that he knew all along. It turns out that the secret, which concerned Cecilia’s birth was known to all but herself.
So, Cecilia the daughter runs away like Olivia the mother. She convinces herself that she needs to discover her mother, her father too for the one she called dad wasn’t the one who fathered her and she needs to come to him. But in reality, she is not coming, she is going, going away from her own private tragedy and she leaves her sleeping and trusting fiancée, much like her mother left her trusting and doting husband a decade and more ago.
Vandela Vida begins the book with the death of Cecilia’s dad and quickly moves into mystic territory with Cecilia’s trip to
Leaving the mysticism aside, the characters will linger, Pankaj, the abandoned but devoted fiancée, Cecilia’s similarly abandoned but devoted father, the elderly Sami healer named Anna Kristine, who gives her refuge, shelter and a measure of healing and of course, Olivia, Cecilia’s mother, forever running but never quite running enough. And then of course, there is the title of the book itself. A Sami shaman who turns out not to be her father tells her of the northern lights when Cecilia sees them for the first time after crossing the Arctic Circle , “We believe they are our ancestors.” “Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name” is a hauntingly beautiful book of such beauty that its fragrance will linger long after the last page has been turned.
Tags: Vendela Vida , Finland , Lapland , Norway , Lyrical , Women , Mother , Daughter
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