Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Far From Here by Nicole Baart

Far From Here
by Nicole Baart
Published February 2012
Howard Books
352 pages

About the Book
How long do you hold on to hope? Danica Greene has always hated flying, so it was almost laughable that the boy of her dreams was a pilot. She married him anyway and together, she and Etsell settled into a life where love really did seem to conquer all. Danica is firmly rooted on the ground in Blackhawk, the small town in northern Iowa where they grew up, and the wide slashes of sky that stretch endlessly across the prairie seem more than enough for Etsell.

But when the opportunity to spend three weeks in Alaska helping a pilot friend presents itself, Etsell accepts and their idyllic world is turned upside down. It’s his dream, he reveals, and Danica knows that she can’t stand in the way. Ell is on his last flight before heading home when his plane mysteriously vanishes shortly after takeoff, leaving Danica in a free fall. Etsell is gone, but what exactly does gone mean? Is she a widow? An abandoned wife? Or will Etsell find his way home to her?

Danica is forced to search for the truth in her marriage and treks to Alaska to grapple with the unanswerable questions about her husband’s mysterious disappearance. But when she learns that Ell wasn’t flying alone and that a woman is missing, too, the bits and pieces of the careful life that she had constructed for them in Iowa take to the wind. A story of love and loss, and ultimately starting over, Far From Here explores the dynamics of intimacy and the potentially devastating consequences of the little white lies we tell the ones we love.

My Thoughts
I chose to review Far From Here because I read Beneath the Night Tree early last year. I thoroughly enjoyed it and was looking forward to reading another book by Nicole Baart.

The story opens with the trauma of Danica's husband's plane disappearing in Alaska. Unsure if Etsell is missing or dead, Danica can't simply move on. Instead she searches, waits, and hopes that he will return. Family and friends gather around her and support her as best they know how. Through the months of waiting, she relives the past ten years and realizes many things about their relationship, her husband, and herself. Will she ever be able to move on?

As I expected, Far From Here is a well-written, emotional story. Nicole has a unique way of helping readers feel the depth of emotion that each character feels. You can't walk away from this book thinking, "Well, that was a good book." No. Instead you feel a bit wrung out at the variety of emotions that reading it has evoked.

The cast of characters was unique. A dysfunctional family, surrogate mom, quirky neighbor. And somehow it meshed so that I ended up liking them in the end.

I had a few hangups with this book. First, it started almost painfully slow for me. Danica is not a very likeable character in the beginning of the book. I grew to like her through her flashbacks and as she dealt with her grief, but I did NOT like her in the beginning. I really had to push myself to keep reading. While the story picked up, I was still nearly halfway finished before I felt like I just had to know how it ended.

My second issue had to do with the alternating first and third person. The entire book focuses on Danica - regardless of which voice is speaking. In the beginning, especially, the switch between first and third person was just too abrupt. It just didn't flow well for me, and I had trouble making the transition. I actually (surprisingly) liked the first person voice better. Danica seemed so much more human in that voice.

Finally, the author uses some really strong language in this book. I was disappointed in the author for using this language and in the publisher (known for publishing faith-based books) for allowing it. It wasn't necessary and didn't add anything to the story. By the author's own admission on her blog, Far From Here is not a Christian book. I wish I had known that before I began reading so my expectations would have been different. [3.5 stars]

I received a free copy of this book from Howard Books in exchange for my fair and honest review.

About the Author
Nicole Baart was born and raised in a small town in Iowa. She and her husband have three young sons. After the adoption of their infant son, Nicole discovered a deep passion for global issues and co-founded a non-profit organization, One Body One Hope, that works alongside a church and orphanage in Monrovia, Liberia. After the Leaves Fall and the sequel, Summer Snow (a 2009 Christy Award finalist for excellence in fiction), were Nicole's first books. She is also the author of The Moment Between and Beneath the Night Tree (February 2011), the anticipated conclusion of her first two books. The inspiration for Nicole's next novel was an unsolved murder near her hometown. Nicole and her family live in Iowa.

Nicole Baart Online
Website  |  Blog  |  Facebook

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