Earlier today, I posted an awesome guest post from author Lisa Schroeder about why she writes and loves Contemporary. She's offering a signed copy of one of her novels, Far From You (in my blog) and I figured that today was a good time to review the book myself.
Far From You is actually Schroeder's least well known book (heard that one from the author herself). It doesn't get the attention that her others have, and after reading it, part of me can understand it. With each of the other books, I had a pretty good idea what the story was going to be about. Not so with Far From You. In Far From You, Schroeder has actually crafted a much subtler story. It's harder to summarize, harder to explain, but it's one of those stories that niggles in the back of your mind, reminding you at odd moments that it's been there.
I don't know if that even makes sense, but I can't think of any other way to describe it. After I had finished, I thought about it, recognized that I still loved Lisa, but that this wasn't my favorite. It's still not my favorite (The Day Before gets that prize by a long shot, because it really was just that awesome). But the more I think about this one, the more I feel that its subtlety is what makes it so strong.
Alice is just this side of bitter. She's had to deal with an awful lot of painful changes for one so young and she doesn't really know how to cope with it all. She's not totally sure what to think about the new step-mom and half sibling, she's still trying to cope with the death of her mother and she's at that age where you are trying to learn about yourself and who you are. And then, Alice, her step-mom and the baby get trapped in a snow storm. They turned wrong, the car is low on gas and they are stuck in a snow drift. And things get pretty desperate very quickly.
This story is more internal and reflective than most I've read. There are very few characters, the setting is dire, but the same and Alice finds herself with large amounts of time on her hands, with nothing to do but wait for help or death. Her step-mom leaves to seek help, leaving Alice with this tiny baby, no food and a car that's nearly dead.
Alice becomes a strong person in that car, waiting for life or death to take her, and she becomes a fighter. She does what little she can to keep the baby warm, to protect each of them, and as she does this, she opens herself up to more than she had previously and she allows herself to love more fully. She spends a lot of time thinking about the people at home, her choices, her future and quietly, and without fanfare begins to mature.
I really appreciated that this book didn't require a boy to inspire change (although if I remember right, she does have a boyfriend back home...) and I also liked that the change was hers, and although it was, in part, inspired by a brush with death, even that is quieter than we as readers are used to. There was no crazed madman chasing after her, no apocalypse, no rouge government, no drug overdose or catastrophic accident. There was merely snow. Snow that piled and piled and cold that seeps into your bones and robs your breath. That kind of cold and desperation can make a person into many things and I loved watching Alice grow into herself. She's not perfect and there is still more she could change, but she accomplished so much throughout this short novel and it's a book that leaves you with your heart full.
(Can I just say that this is by far the most beautiful of Lisa's book covers (and IMO the hardcover is... rather ugly) but this is gorgeous, simply stunning and I feel like it captures the soul and heart of this book incredibly well.)