Book Review: North of Boston hits north of expectations
By Kimberly Dunbar
Pirio Kasparov isn’t your typical female protagonist. The witty, tough, Boston-bred daughter of Russian immigrants is as gritty as the city in which she was raised. Pirio is too intelligent to believe in fairytales and too cynical to believe in love. She doesn’t need saving and believes that “a really good ending is one you don’t see coming.”
Like its heroine, North of Boston is one of those really good books that you didn’t see coming.
Elizabeth Elo’s debut novel is set in gritty South Boston and documents the struggles and the dark side of the fishing industry.
While out on her friend Ned’s lobster boat, a freighter emerges from the fog and crashes into them, tossing both Pirio and Ned overboard. Pirio manages to survive for four hours until help arrives, but Ned is lost at sea. In the aftermath of the accident, Pirio must care for her best friend, Thomasina, an alcoholic set into a tailspin by Ned’s death, and Noah, Ned and Thomasina’s young son. Pirio’s miraculous survival in the freezing Atlantic waters gives her local legend status, and even the U.S. Navy wants to study how she was able to accomplish what no other human had.
Meanwhile, a nagging instinct ~ fueled by her skeptical Russian father, with whom Pirio has a rocky relationship, and her love for Noah ~ leads her to think that the crash was no accident. As she begins to investigate the mystery boat that hit them, she heads down a path she isn’t supposed to follow.
What ensues is an action-packed story loaded with twists, turns and surprises at every corner. North of Boston starts as a murder mystery but eventually evolves into a cautionary environmental tale and looks at biggest theme of all ~ self-exploration. While attempting to solve Ned’s death, Pirio is forced to face parts of herself that she is has kept hidden in an attempt to survive in a world of broken relationships and promises. Like the novel, Pirio has layers that lead to a deeper, more substantial story. The development of both the plot and Pirio’s character is entirely satisfying for the reader.
Don’t expect this book to follow the typical storyline, in which the heroine with a strong exterior that’s weakened by emotional issues is saved by a man in the end. Pirio’s no damsel in distress. In fact, our heroine often does the saving: She befriends a male journalist who runs into trouble more than a few times.
Literature needs more heroines like Pirio Kasparov. Although strong female protagonists are an increasing trend, there’s usually a man by her side. Here’s hoping Pirio has more adventures in Elo’s future books.