North of Here

North of Here

 

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synopsis

The sounds of unexpected tragedies-a roll of thunder, the crash of metal on metal-leave Miranda in shock amid the ruins of her broken family.

As she searches for new meaning in her life, Miranda finds quiet refuge with her family’s handyman, Dix, in his cabin in the dark forests of the Adirondack Mountains. Dix is kind, dependable, and good with an ax-the right man to help the sheltered Miranda heal-but ultimately, her sadness creates a void even Dix can’t fill.

When a man from her distant past turns up, the handsome idealist now known as Darius, he offers Miranda a chance to do meaningful work at The Source, a secluded property filled with his nature worshipers. Miranda feels this charismatic guru is the key to remaking her life, but her grief and desire for love also create an opportunity for his deception. And in her desperate quest to find herself after losing almost everything, Miranda and Dix could pay a higher price than they ever imagined.

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“Four major characters living in the “Daks” (the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York) interact in this novel of loss, hope and betrayals…Saville’s evocation of this place is masterly.” – Read the Full Review >>
–The Seattle Times
 
 
 
“An unpredictable and fascinating novel…leaves readers with plenty to think about.”
–Manhattan Book Review
 
 
 
“Once again, Laurel Saville applies her ‘poetic, lyrical voice’ ”
–Booklist
 
 
 
“Saville does a great job at getting into the psyche of her characters and bringing out the pain and sadness, as well as the confusion. She gives us a story of hope and redemption……If you enjoy literary fiction, this is a great work.” – Read the Full Review >>
–Blogcritics
 

the story behind the story

I lived in upstate New York for about ten years, the last four or five in a rural area which we shared with a dispersed community of Amish. Their farms were easy to pick out. No tractors. Draft horses in the field. Laundry lines dotted with white bonnets and black pants. Dim, diffuse light in the windows after dark. They were known as good roofers. They rarely made eye contact and spoke as little as possible, even when you stopped to purchase peaches or fresh baked bread from one of their stands. To me, their reserve and otherness was most pronounced at night. Driving along one of the narrow, twisting and weather-roughened roads, our car headlights might illuminate a reflective triangle bouncing along on the back of a black buggy. We’d slow and swing out into the far lane, giving the trotting horse a wide and safe berth and the family within, faintly illuminated by a small, swinging lamp, a quick wave. Always as I passed, I wondered what the younger folk, as they headed toward their darkened homes, made of the strange blue light emanating from the windows of almost every house they passed. Had they seen television? Did they wish for technology? Did they think we were trapped by it? Did they notice, ponder, care or wonder about us at all?

A question within a vision is often what starts me writing; these were the questions that got me going on NORTH OF HERE.

However, I did not want to write about the Amish. The idea of trying to peel back the curtains on their private lives felt uncomfortably intrusive. The generative scene of this book began to morph from a black buggy on a dark, wet, rural road, to a young girl on the back of a snowmobile, racing through snow-blanketed fields and woods, her arms around the waist of a lanky, laconic man who was a father she hardly knew. She was the one wondering about the blue light that came through the windows of the occasional house they passed. She became the one I wanted to know about. Who was she? How did she get there?

As I began to write her story, I started digging into her parent’s story. I had to understand them, first. The book became not about her, but about how her coming into the world caused a collision between four very different adults. The original scene was abandoned; the questions it had spawned were carried forward.

Exploring these adult lives also allowed me to explore themes that have interested me for decades: the rigid and mostly unspoken codes of certain class cultures; how the drive for conformity and acceptance limits a life; the secrets people try to keep about who they are and what they want; differing views of our connection to and uses of nature; the challenge and limitations of loving a difficult but compelling person, especially when they are lost or bent on self-destruction. In addition, the totally unique setting of the Adirondack Park offered a formidable and fertile ground for these human struggles. At six million acres, it’s the largest national park in the United States, bigger than Yosemite, Yellowstone, Glacier, Grand Canyon and the Great Smokies parks combined. Yet, about 50% of the area is privately owned, so it’s dotted with small towns and villages and is the stage for a strange brew of competing interests. Many of the people who live there year round are dependent for their livelihoods on the tourists and second-homeowners they both need and resent. The out-of-staters want both the wild landscape that brought them there and the comforts and conveniences they feel entitled to. The various commercial interests, from prisons and water parks to logging and development, offer much-needed jobs, but at some environmental cost. Then there’s the rich natural resources and rugged beauty – 10,000 lakes, 30,000 miles of rivers, huge tracts of dark forests, countless wetlands, mysterious wildlife, struggling farms, dramatic weather and 46 mountains over 4000 feet – which some want to preserve at all costs, many to enjoy for sport and recreation, and others need to exploit to protect livestock and put food on the table. All of this gets regulated and controlled by the Adirondack Park Authority, which is in turn governed by politicians, most of whom have never set foot on a single muddy path or slapped at a mosquito inside the Park.

Each of the characters in NORTH OF HERE, Miranda, Dix, Darius and Sally, have within them some combination of these competing and complex interests. Their individual histories, as is the case with all of us, are intertwined with the larger histories of the place, time and environment where they live. Their own self-awareness, personal agency and individual integrity – or lack of these qualities – is what distinguish and separate them from one another.

Ultimately though, this book is a love story. It’s about deep, sometimes contradictory, often maddening, occasionally thwarted, love between people and toward a place.

 

Q&A with Laurel Saville
Author of North of Here
On-sale March 1, 2016


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