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Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name

3.60  ·  Rating details ·  4,243 ratings  ·  740 reviews
When Clarissa Iverton was 14 years old, her mother disappeared and she was raised by her father. Upon his death, Clarissa, now 28, discovers he wasn't her father at all, a revelation that forces her to confront the truth about her mother's past and her own identity.
Paperback, 226 pages
Published September 1st 2007 by Atlantic (first published 2007)
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Alexis Martine, Thank you for posting the link to this poem. I just finished the book and I loved the title--so poetic and intriguing. Vida mentions in an…moreMartine, Thank you for posting the link to this poem. I just finished the book and I loved the title--so poetic and intriguing. Vida mentions in an interview how Somby's poem fit perfectly for the character's search for identity under the Lapland sky. How did you like this book? I'd like to go to Lapland. I loved the reoccurring reindeer and the stark prose. Gorgeous.(less)
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Average rating 3.60  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,243 ratings  ·  740 reviews

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Apr 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary
I’ve mentioned once or thrice that where I work we have constant book donations coming in, and before we add them to our collection I get to peruse them and take what I want to read. It’s a fringe benefit that has saved me hundreds of dollars. Anyways, the other day a box of books showed up on my desk with a note. It said: Thought you might like these. No name was attached. It was like a mystery. Who would send me these books? What could be in this box that someone else might think I wanted to ...more
Dec 21, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What rock have I been hiding under that I hadn't heard of Vendela Vida until recently. I have a few GR friends to thank for bringing this author to my attention. And I'm very grateful. I just finished Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name, and definitely plan to read Vida's other books in 2016. Clarissa's mother abandoned her family when Clarissa was 14. At the beginning of the book, Clarissa is 30 and the man she had thought was her father dies, after which she finds out that he wasn't in ...more
Diane S ☔
Oct 13, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Connie G
When Clarissa was going through papers after her father died, she found a copy of her birth certificate showing that he was not her birth father. Her mother had walked out the door when Clarissa was a teenager, leaving without a trace. She felt that the important people in her life had not told her the truth. Clarissa wanted to know her true identity and she traveled to Lapland to search for her birth father.

In northern Norway she unearthed some of the secrets that had been hidden from her. She
Iris P
Aug 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name

How far will you to go to try to unravel family secrets that have profoundly affected your life?
Travel across continents? Traverse a few times zones? Brave indomitable weather? Go all the way to the end of the world?

That last sentence doesn't seem too farfetched to describe Lapland, the Scandinavian region where Finland, Norway and Sweden merge. This is the place, which is located above the Arctic Circle that serves as the main setting for this beautifully
Betsy Robinson
Like The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty, this is a quest novel about abandoning who you are or have been and eventually free-falling into a new life. It’s tautly written and, in a way, as icy as the Lapland terrain where much of it takes place. It’s a good story. I was never bored. Nor was I emotionally swept away. Nevertheless I enjoyed the book.
Lee Klein
Perfect polar vortex reading. No need to travel to Lapland for constant flurries and ice. A spare, brittle, quick read. Lots of white space. One of those books with two pages on either side of a standalone chapter title page, so at the end of every chapter you're shot ahead five pages, which makes it seem longer and quicker -- turning blank pages maybe also creates some space in a reader's brain. My particular brain has been suffering some freeze lately. Unable to make it through a few dense ...more
Julie Ehlers
Jul 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary-fiction
Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name is kind of a cold-climate twin of The Diver's Clothes Lie Empty. In both books, a heroine learns a dramatic family secret. In both books, learning the secret causes her to set off alone for distant locales without letting anyone know where she's going. In both books, Vendela Vida takes a location I've never been to and makes me never want to go there ever.

However, as with actual twins, there are a few differences between the novels. In Diver's Clothes, we
Mar 17, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult-fiction
I wanted to like this book, but it never quite hooked me emotionally. At the same time, it was easy to lose myself in it, and a quick, interesting read. A lot of points felt intentionally unresolved, which bugged me some. I felt sorry for all the characters that Clarissa ditched on her literal/metaphorical journey. The sense of place was great, and the characters were often compelling (except, sometimes, Clarissa herself). But the language felt a little too self-consciously almost cute sometimes ...more
Dec 30, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Despite the blurb, this was more about the mother than the father and hence it left me infuriated and wrecked.

Damaged people having children and damaging them in turn. It's fairly familiar literary terrain, and Vida writes about it in a detached way, so I was mainly along for the ride to Lapland, not particularly expecting an emotional punch to the gut, but the final quarter did me in.
Apr 09, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
SPOILER ALERT: There is no way I can discuss my mixed feelings about this book without revealing key plot developments.

The good: This is a beautifully written novel with a compelling flow, inventive use of language, and at times brilliant descriptions of people and places.

The bad: This is fashioned as a resurrection story, but it didn't feel that way to me at all. Instead, I'd say it is a story about escape and disavowal of responsibility, masquerading as resurrection.

The narrator is a young
Mar 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: My mother.
I'm on the prowl for books about mothers leaving their daughters and this novel doesn't pull any punches. The narrator's voice is funny, worried, caustic, and she's insistent about going to the source for an answer. The story takes you to Finland and farther north, and the characters and landscape and outcome are frozen now in my memory. Vendela's sentences are compressed and multi-layered, a schooling in diction, rhythm, spareness and unfettered beauty.
Elyse  Walters
Jun 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I own all of Vendela Vida's books. Even before I read her first book, "The Lovers", I've
admired work that both she and her 'author/ husband' Dave Eggers have been doing in the world ... starting years back in San Francisco with a tutoring program for children.

I love Vendela's simplistic & eloquent writing ....
In "The Lover", Yvonne starts over in Turkey after her husband died. (where they had
honeymooned 28 years prior)... She returns hoping to immerse herself in memories of their happy
Julie Christine
This was more a novella- a finish it in one sitting sort of read. It slim size and spare style belie a great depth, however. I am also estranged from my mother; though our histories are very different, I could relate Clarissa's rage, antipathy, guarding of her heart and her rejection of the central characters in her immediate past. The ending was satisfying- closure followed by opening; an ending greeted with a beginning. Good stuff, this.
Aug 15, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-reads, nordic
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
After I finished reading Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name, by Vendela Vida, I ruminated on it for a few days. I didn't much like it, but why? Were the reasons that I didn't like it more indicative of the book being good, or being bad? After all, much of my ambivalence came from my disapproval of the choices that the main character, Clarissa, made. If these poor choices were entirely within Clarissa's character -- if the author, Ms. Vida -- created a consistent and believable portrait of a ...more
Aug 08, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sull by: Charity shop
This was interesting, but not richly rewarding. I really liked the premise, of a sort of mysteriously multi-cultural girl searching for her possible roots in Lapland. But there seemed something sloppy & half-developed about the narrative.

Somehow I'm not surprised to find that the author is married to Dave Eggars & is a magazine founder & editor. The novel is maybe a good magazine story, maybe.... It had very interesting, modern bits--flirting, drinking & partying in strange
Dec 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I just closed the back cover and find myself breathing hard from the emotional weight of it. It is almost painful to read a story told from such a singular point of view. The mind wants to wander to how those whose lives she trampled in and out of must feel.

(And, when you read it, you'll wonder if I'm talking about the mother or the daughter. Really, I suppose, it's both.)

This book is written simply. In quick, conversational bursts. But carries with it some of the darkest secrets of the heart.
May 22, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
With chapters extending to two pages at the most and at barely two hundred pages, Let The Northern... pretty much dispenses with descriptive passages. This is especially unusual considering that its setting is Lapland, a locale that, presumably, few of its readers have visited. This is because we are firmly in the protagonist's mind. This is the real location. And our hero is so troubled and unaware of her surroundings that she barely avoids freezing to death. In her search for her biological ...more
Dec 12, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: identity-crisis
I didn't care for this story of 'who the hell am I?' When a young woman's father dies she finds out that he is not actually her father. Her mother had left years earlier, disappeared to who knows where. She finds out that her boyfriend of many years had known that her father wasn't her father. She feels betrayed by everyone and so she, wait for it....takes off, telling no one where she is going. She travels to the back of beyond, to Lapland, looking for her father. She is obnoxious, extremely ...more
Apr 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While I enjoyed this throughout and was entertained by Vida’s story, writing and humor, it seemed too lightweight to rate more than 3 stars -- until I got to the end, when its themes emerged more clearly: those of having the courage to create one’s own identity, to refuse to be defined by circumstances. In true Vendela Vida fashion, the protagonist Clarissa travels to exotic locations seeking identity and a home. Clarissa, on an actual journey to the northern edges of Scandinavia, seeks ...more
Feb 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-this-year
Another lovely read by one of my new favourite authors. A young woman travels to Lapland where she believes she will finally meet her real father only to discover a terrible secret. The writing is excellent and the story heartbreakingly beautiful.
Ayelet Waldman
I loved this book. She writes like Joan Didion.
Chilly and spare, which seems fitting for a story that takes place mostly in Lapland. It's to Lapland that Clarissa goes in search of answers about her past, but answers are few and far between: for every answer she uncovers, there are a dozen new questions. How do you escape your past, when you're not sure what that past is? How do you come to terms with your family, when your family doesn't want to come to terms with you? Clarissa learns things, but not always the things she'd hoped or ...more
Apr 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ever since I went to Norway and learned about the native people called Sami I have been obsessed with the topic. Saw a great movie called Sami Blood and now this novella. This is a sad story of an American woman whose mother abandoned her and her brother. After her father dies she travels to the Lapland to find her roots and makes many startling discoveries. Along the way she meets a cast of interesting characters and learns more about the Sami culture that she belongs to. I loved it and read it ...more
Feb 09, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
2.5 stars, would’ve been 3 but I can’t stand animal abuse in books. ...more
Jan 09, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jim Coughenour
Jul 16, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bleakfiction
The title is a poem, or a promise maybe, that some weeks I'd be tempted to take up — and the implications of this offer casts its shimmering reflections across the whited-out landscape at the tip of Finnish Lapland. Clarissa, the main character, is in search of the mother who abandoned her in early childhood; now a strong young woman, she's determined to engineer a reunion. But no frozen path runs smoothly, the connections between people settled near the snowy wastes of the North Pole get more ...more
Melissa Joulwan
Jun 07, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
I really did not enjoy this book. The premise seems right up my alley: a young girl goes on a personal quest to Lapland to dig into her family history. I love stories with family secrets, unexpected journeys, and geography that becomes a character in the book—but the things this poor girl uncovers are so ugly. The subject matter made it hard to read, but the structure propelled the story forward with undeniable momentum, so even though I didn't enjoy my time with these characters, I was ...more
Just arrived from Russia through BM. This book is about the relationship between a daughter and her mother. When Clarissa was 14 years old her mother disappears, she find out that his father is not her real father and she finally met her mother in Finnmark. So what??
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Goodreads Librari...: Please correct page count 3 14 Nov 14, 2016 05:08AM  
Jeremy? 2 24 Jul 14, 2015 11:20PM  
What's the Name o...: SOLVED. Woman goes to Norway (?) to find her mother (novel) [s] 5 34 Sep 17, 2014 01:18AM  

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Vendela Vida is the award-winning author of four books, including Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Nameand The Lovers, and a founding editor of The Believer magazine. She is also the co-editor of Always Apprentices, a collection of interviews with writers, and Confidence, or the Appearance of Confidence, a collection of interviews with musicians. As a fellow at the Sundance Labs, she developed ...more
“People pretend things didn't happen. Or so what, they happened, it's okay. Well, it's never okay. It's always ruined.” 15 likes
“Recently, everything around me felt familiar yet amiss, like the first time you ride in the back seat of your own car.” 12 likes
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