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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Far From Here by Nicole Baart

Far From Here by Nicole Baart
Publisher: Howard Books
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (340 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

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.

He's gone. Her untamable, golden-boy husband flew his plane into the Alaskan sky and disappeared.

Even as teenagers Danica and Etsell were like two halves of a whole. They belonged together, depended on each other. But in the mundane unfolding of life, they forgot to nurture their love, and then fate, destiny, or whatever stepped in.

Too late Danica realizes a love relationship needs gentle care and can never be taken for granted nor shoved around carelessly. Now she must not only deal with the disappearance of her husband, but must also cope with her guilt feelings. She and Etsell had been at odds with each other and almost strangers when he left for Alaska to help a friend, a bush pilot—something he always wanted to be.

Danica’s unique family rallies around her to help her through the heart-wrenching stages of grief. These women sweep the reader into a maelstrom of emotions—some shattering, others humorous, and others so complex as to be indefinable.

The reader is immersed into the lives of the characters Nicole Baart seems to make live and breathe.

Charlene, Danica’s mother, a single mom now in her mid fifties still dresses like a flirt and needs a man in her life—never the same one for long.

Natalie and Katrina are Danica’s older sisters. Natalie escaped the little Midwest town of Blackhawk as soon as possible, went to college, and earned her PhD. Her visits are few and far between, but she comes when Danica’s world that had seemed so solid, shifts, Natalie comes.

Katrina, while older than Danica, had always needed her little sister’s nurturing. Katrina gives unfailing, sassy, sometimes outrageous support to Danica.

Other secondary characters that play an intricate roll in Danica's healing are: Hazel, the hard-edged, gruff woman who had been Etsell’s surrogate mother since he was eight years old. Sam Linden, a guide at Midnight Sun Lodge in Alaska. And then there's Benjamin.

Among all these women, Benjamin, Danica’s unobtrusive neighbor, works his quiet magic with ordinary, unremarkable deeds. There are no meaningless platitudes nor does he ask stupid questions. His quiet words calm Danica’s turmoil as she struggles to make sense of her life. He offers his mature, incredible love to Danica only when the time is right. Their happy-ever-after, so deserved, makes this poignant story pulsate with a promise of a new fulfilling life as the future unfolds.

In Far From Here, Nicole Baart takes the reader to the wild, raw, beautiful Alaska, to the quiet little town of Blackhawk in Midwest America, and best of all, she takes the reader into the hearts and minds of phenomenal characters to give a vicarious experience of life with its hurts and its healings in a way rarely experienced in a novel.

The exquisite prose of Nicole Baart with its beautiful symbolism and metaphors quicken the senses making Far From Here pulsate with life—life at time so emotionally painful it takes the breath away. Yet, it overflows with the many types of love flawed individuals give and receive. Ms. Baart’s well-drawn characters and awesome descriptions linger long after the last page is read.