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Book Review: ‘North of Here’ by Laurel Saville


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 he 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.

North of Here by Laurel Saville, tells the story of a young twenty something year old named Miranda, who pretty much loses everyone and everything around her. She is rescued by the handsome Dix, the family’s handyman, and offered a place to live. Their relationship begins and ends almost as suddenly, when at a local farmer’s market Miranda meets the enchanting Darius, the owner of a place only known as The Source.

The Characters

Dix comes from a life of privilege, though he doesn’t flaunt it. He works as a handyman/landscaper for several families, which is how he knows Miranda. He seems very humble and forgiving. He tries to understand the world around him and just wants those he’s around to be happy.

Miranda is a 23 year old who went to school for the wrong subject. She doesn’t have a job and lives at home. Her brother died in a car accident, her father died as a result of a tree branch falling in a storm, and her mother is the victim of strokes brought on by excessive drinking.

Darius is a man that runs a commune of sorts called The Source. He takes in wayward teens and women and tried to live a pure life, a life free of modern technology, gadgets and medicine.

Sally is a social worker that helps Darius get The Source, but she quickly realizes her mistake.


North of here took me by surprise. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it either, and I think that’s because of the way the story is told.

The story is told in four different parts: Dix and Miranda, Darius and Sally, Darius and Miranda and Dix and Sally. I don’t fully understand the reason as to why it was told like this. For me, it broke the story up unnecessarily never really allowed readers the chance to fully connect with the characters. I found myself finally connecting with Dix and Miranda in part one, only to have it end abruptly.  It wasn’t made clear that the characters were being replaced in the second portion, which is very confusing to the reader.

The writing, however, is rather beautiful. Laurel really gets in there and tells an intricate and heartbreaking story despite having separated it into different parts. She really shows how people, especially who are easily influenced, can go from living a pretty basic and normal life to the complete opposite. It shows how people can easily can be seduced by something that seems so great and amazing, but in the end that thing will either get them killed or drive them to the point where even if they wanted to leave, they no longer can because they’ve lost themselves to the point where they’re unrecognizable to those who care for them.

There were several times when I didn’t think I could continue this book because the writing was so raw and it made me very sad to read. While I didn’t fully connect with the characters, the story was all too real of what goes on in the world, especially with cults and the way that young people can be easily persuaded to join something if they’re not strong enough to realize this isn’t the best situation to be in.

The story, while it ends happily, isn’t like a fairy tale ever after. It is very somber, but shows that light can prevail in darkness. Overall, I am going to give this book a 7/10. It gets major points for the writing and story, but not characterization and the layout.

About the Author

laurelsavilleLaurel Saville is an award-winning author of numerous books, articles, essays, and short fiction. Her work has appeared in the LA Times Magazine, The Bark,, Good Housekeeping, The Bennington Review, Ellipses, House Beautiful, POL/Oxygen, Room, Seven Days, and other publications. She holds an MFA from The Bennington Writer’s Seminars and lives and writes near Seattle. She is also a corporate communications consultant, has taught at the College of St. Rose and Western Connecticut State University, and spoken at a variety of colleges and writing conferences including AWP, Pacific Northwest Writers Association, and the Whidbey Writers Conference.

Her memoir of her mother’s colorful life in the midst of LA’s arts and hippie heyday and her tragic decline to a murdered street person, “Unraveling Anne,” won the memoir category of the Indie Book Awards and was a runner-up to the Grand Prize winner at the Hollywood Book Festival.

Her first novel, “Henry and Rachel”, is a fictionalized account of her great grandparent’s lives, loves, deceptions, and trials, which uses alternating, first-person narrative voices and actual letters. Booklist hailed “Saville’s poetic, lyrical voice”, and called it a “touching story,” , and a “tender, poignant debut novel.” It was also a finalist for a Nancy Pearl award.

North of Here was published on March 1, 2016 and can be purchased here.

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