Welcome to my turn on the blog tour for The Distance by Zoë Folbigg. My thanks also to Melanie Price and publisher Aria for the opportunity to be part of the tour.
From the author of the bestselling novel, The Note, comes this beautiful, romantic tale of finding love in the most unexpected places.
Under the midnight sun of Arctic Norway, Cecilie Wiig goes online and stumbles across Hector Herrera in a band fan forum. They start chatting and soon realise they might be more than kindred spirits. But there are two big problems: Hector lives 8,909km away in Mexico. And he’s about to get married.
Can Cecilie, who’s anchored to two jobs she loves in the library and a cafe full of colourful characters in the town in which she grew up, overcome the hurdles of having fallen for someone she’s never met? Will Hector escape his turbulent past and the temptations of his hectic hedonistic life and make a leap of faith to change the path he’s on?
Zoe Folbigg’s latest novel is a story of two people, living two very different lives, and whether they can cross a gulf, ocean, sea and fjord to give their love a chance.
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March 2018, Tromsø, Norway
So, ro, lilleman, nå er dagen over… Sleep tight, little one, now the day is over… Cecilie can’t stop the blasted lullaby from spinning around her head, twinkling like a hanging mobile doing revolutions above a sleeping baby. Alle mus i alle land, ligger nå og sover… The song is rotating calmly and methodically in Cecilie’s brain, distracting her from the couple sitting in front of her as they wait for her to take their order. It is also distancing her from The Thing That’s Happening Today that she’s been dreading for weeks, hoping someone will put a stop to it or change their mind.
The lullaby must have been swirling in Cecilie’s head since she sang it in a quiet corner of the library this morning; to mothers with grey crescent moons clinging to their lower lashlines; to fathers, over the moon to be enjoying their parental leave in a much more relaxed way than they think their partners did. Mothers and fathers and gurglers, all joined in with Cecilie to sing nursery rhymes in the basement of the library, but now those songs and the sweet and happy voices are taunting her.
So, ro, lilleman…
Cecilie thinks of the large print above the fireplace in the living room at home. The room is an elegant haven of greys, browns and whites, dominated by a long, wooden dining table that stands out against the modern touches of the alternate grey and sable plastic Vitra chairs around it. It’s a table where everyone is welcome for heart-to-hearts and hygge at Christmas, although most of the time Cecilie eats breakfast there alone. She likes the grey chairs best and always chooses to sit on one of those while she eats her soda bread smeared with honey and stares out of the window, to the vast and sparse garden beyond. On the white wall above the fireplace hangs a print of a static Alexander Calder mobile that her mother Karin picked up on a trip to London.
‘Isn’t it wonderful, Cecilie?’ she exclaimed, her blue eyes lighting up against the silver of her bobbed hair, as Cecilie’s brother and his boyfriend lifted the black matt frame onto the mantelpiece with a heave.
‘Wonderful,’ concurred Morten, the partner of Cecilie’s twin brother Espen, as he pushed his glasses up his little snub nose. ‘The beauty and intelligence is astounding,’ he added. ‘I just wish I could see it in motion.’
Karin nodded with vigour; Espen had already left the room.
Cecilie looked at the print dreamily, her pale green eyes gazing up at the black Vertical Fern, while it didn’t oscillate as it had in the gallery, or might have done in a breeze. Still, Cecilie imagined herself, fluttering up to the largest of its black fronds to see what it would look like to gaze down at her mother and Morten’s faces from above. Cecilie had a knack for drifting out of position on a whim or a daydream, and seeing the world from above.
Karin, a pragmatist and a politician, found it hard to understand her otherworldly daughter.
‘Cecilie?’ Karin had urged.
Cecilie crinkled her nose and snapped back into the room with a blink.
‘It’s wonderful, Mamma,’ she agreed, although she couldn’t fathom why her mother had bought an inanimate print of something that ought to be in gentle movement. It seemed so unlike her. Karin Wiig was the least static person Cecilie knew.
‘Well yes,’ confirmed Karin with authority. ‘They were just so stunning, you really ought to go to London and see them in motion before the exhibition ends,’ she said with a wave of her hand, although everyone knew she was really only talking to Morten. Even if Espen had still been in the room to hear, he was too wrapped up in his life at the i-Scand hotel on the harbour to bother with the inconvenience of a weekend break, and Cecilie had never travelled to a latitude below Oslo, which was something a diplomat and an adventurer like Karin couldn’t understand.
‘Why is your sister so happy to stay in one place?’ she once asked Espen in despair.
‘Perhaps Cecilie’s daydreams take her to better places than a flight ever could, Mamma,’ Espen had replied.
So, ro, lilleman…
The flash of the frond in her mind awakens Cecilie and she wriggles her inert feet inside her black Dr Martens boots. The lullaby evaporates and disappears, and Cecilie is back with the couple sitting in front of her, at their usual table.
‘Pickle, are you all right?’ asks Gjertrud, her kindly weathered face looking up at Cecilie. ‘It’s just Ole asked you three times for the spiced Arctic cloudberry cake, but you seem a little… in the clouds yourself today, my dear.’
‘Oh, I’m so sorry, so much to think about…’ Cecilie replies, as she writes cloudberry onto a pad in a wisp of ink.
Zoë Folbigg is a magazine journalist and digital editor, starting at Cosmopolitan in 2001 and since freelancing for titles including Glamour, Fabulous, Daily Mail, Healthy, LOOK, Top Santé, Mother & Baby, ELLE, Sunday Times Style, and Style.com. In 2008 she had a weekly column in Fabulous magazine documenting her year-long round-the-world trip with ‘Train Man’ – a man she had met on her daily commute. She has since married Train Man and lives in Hertfordshire with him and their two young sons. She is the bestselling author of The Note.
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