On the day of her father's funeral, twenty-eight-year-old Clarissa Iverton discovers that he wasn't her biological father after all. Her mother disappeared fourteen years earlier, and her fiancé has just revealed a life-changing secret to her. Alone and adrift, Clarissa travels to mystical Lapland, where she believes she'll meet her real father. There, at a hotel made of ice, Clarissa is confronted with the truth about her mother's history, and must make a decision about how—and where—to live the rest of her life.
Believer co-editor Vida again explores violence, its aftermath and the curative powers of travel in her bleak second novel. (Her debut, 2003's And Now You Can Go, sent a young woman to the Philippines after a traumatic event.) But this time readers are nearly a hundred pages in before the long-ago physical violence is revealed. Clarissa, home after her father's funeral, finds herself deeply alone. Her developmentally disabled brother has never spoken, and her mother walked out on them 14 years before. Digging through family papers, she finds her birth certificate, which lists a stranger as her father. The hunt for him and the resumption of a search for her mother lead Clarissa to far northern Europe, where the days are short, the reindeer are plentiful and her mother had once felt "connected." Clarissa's travels in her mother's steps seeking that connection, stumbling, finding it and finally severing it are bleak. Vida's fan base will welcome this novel, and the twin questions of what Clarissa's amateur sleuthing will turn up and how each discovery will affect her might draw a few new readers through this slim, austere work.