It is the story of how the lives of a wayward teenager and a lonely archivist are unexpectedly joined through the discovery of an old diary.
Natalie Gallagher, age thirteen, is trying to escape from her parents’ divorce and the vicious cyber-bullying of her former best friend. She discovers a dusty old diary in her family’s basement and determines to unlock the secrets it holds. Meanwhile, an archivist at the Massachusetts State Archives, Kathleen Lynch, is carrying some painful secrets of her own. A widow, she and her only daughter are estranged. Natalie’s quest for information about the diary leads her Kathleen, who sees traces of her lost daughter in the young girl.
Details about the life of an Irish immigrant domestic servant in the 1920s provide valuable lessons for both Natalie and Kathleen. The pages of the diary demonstrate for both of them that their fears and frustrations are universal and timeless.
No Place Like Home
My second novel, So Far Away, is set in and around the town in which I now live. That town is Newburyport, Massachusetts, about forty-five minutes north of Boston. It’s a lovely little town with an abundant history. We have a historical society, a maritime museum, and a Coast Guard station that is reputed to be one of the first in the country. We have many homes dating back two hundres years or more. We have Federalist mansions lining a main street that is easy to imagine in its past life as an old-fashioned thoroughfare. We have homes with signs outside indicating that they were once part of the Underground Railroad.
Now that the book is out in the world I’ve more than once fielded the question, “Why did you choose to set it here?” My book comprises three different storylines. Two are set in the modern day and one is set in 1925 and 1926; the third storyline involves a young Irish immigrant working in domestic service for a doctor’s family. I hardly know which came first, this character’s story or its setting, but my answer to the question is that I never considered setting the book anywhere else. It seems to me that the story grew organically from the town, and that to set it elsewhere would somehow have been a betrayal of the mysterious creative process. It’s not just Newburyport that figures in the book, but other parts of Massachusetts as well. One particular character finds herself driving often up and down Route One north of Boston, a stretch of road that I find so resplendent with rich details and strange businesses—it feels very particularly Boston to me. If there is another place like it in all the world I don’t know what it is.
A few months before the book’s release my husband was offered a job in northern California. We decided that taking the job would be a good step not just professionally but also personally so as I write we are in the midst of the particular chaos involved in packing up a household of two adults, three children and a dog to move across the country. We’ve lived here five years and we’ve set down roots that we are now in the process of pulling up, inch by inch. There’s a lot that’s just plain stressful about this situation, and a lot that’s exciting too. I haven’t had much time to step back and look at all of it from afar. But when I do (or when a discerning interviewer points this out to me) I realize that the book that was once merely set in a town where I live has now become an ode to the town, and a goodbye to the town, and to many parts of northern Massachusetts that have been important to me over the years.
I think a sense of place is so important in fiction, whether the place itself is fictionalized or actual. (My first novel was set in Burlington, Vermont, a place I lived for three years.) As I prepare to become a west-coaster for the first time in my life I wonder what this move will do to my writing. My third book, well in progress, is set in Maine. But what about the fourth? The fifth? Will I come to know a new area of the country intimately enough to set fiction there? I don’t know. But I can’t wait to find out.
Meg Mitchell Moore holds a B.A. from Providence College and a master’s degree in English Literature from New York University. She spent several years as a journalist, during which her work was published in Yankee, Continental, Women’s Health, Advertising Age and many other business and consumer magazines.
Her first novel, The Arrivals was recently released in paperback. So Far Away is, like her first effort, receiving wonderful reviews. In particular, Kirkus found “Moore is equally skillful in capturing the class tensions of the early 20th century and the scary cruelty of teenage girls amplified by 21st century technology.”
Meg is currently in the process of relocating from Newburyport, Massachusetts to Northern California with her husband and their three children, as well as their beloved border collie.