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In his impressive American debut, veteran Norwegian novelist Petterson chronicles Arvid Jansen's breakdown in the six years since his parents and brother were killed in a ferry accident (modeled after the 1994 sinking of the MS Estonia). Arvid wanders around Oslo and through the Norwegian countryside, sifting through memories of his stern, ultracompetent father and nursing an infatuation with his attractive neighbor, Mrs. Grinde. After Arvid's architect brother attempts suicide, Arvid tries to reconnect with him and pull them both out of the abyss. Despite the gloomy subject matter, Arvid is a witty, self-deprecating narrator who fought with his family while they were alive and misses them terribly now that they're gone. This novel won several literary prizes in Europe, where the Estonia disaster is well known. The events may not feel as immediate to American readers, but many will find Arvid's path of loss and redemption affecting nonetheless. (Aug.)
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*Starred Review* In award-winning Norwegian author Petterson's forceful first American release, Arvid Jansson remembers April 7 the way many Americans remember September 11. It was the day his parents and two younger brothers were all killed in a horrific ferry accident. Even though it is now six years later, Arvid still suffers crippling grief. A divorced father of two girls whom he rarely sees, he is also estranged from his only remaining sibling, an older brother. So great is his enduring anguish that he says, "I do not know if I want family anymore. It is too risky." Yet he yearns for human contact and has stilted relationships with two neighbors, a Kurdish man who knows only three words of Norwegian and a woman who lives across the way. Born's skillful translation highlights Petterson's ability to convey the aching bewilderment of overwhelming grief as Arvid rambles through each day without purpose or direction. He is a wholly sympathetic character who misses his family and feels guilt over every argument he had with them. After his brother's unsuccessful suicide attempt, Arvid eventually begins to work his way out of his mournful morass to reunite with what family he has left. This is as fine a portrayal of the course of heartache and renewal as any in recent memory. Donna Chavez
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.