cover image You Disappear

You Disappear

Christian Jungersen, trans. from the Danish by Misha Hoekstra. Doubleday/Talese, $27.95 (352p) ISBN 978-0-385-53725-4

Jungersen’s (The Exception) brilliant latest novel, set in the suburbs of Copenhagen, explores a troubled marriage that is further complicated by a personality-altering brain injury. A doctor informs Mia Halling that her husband Frederik, a private school headmaster, has a brain tumor that will make him treat her differently. “[Y]ou must be… prepared for… [him] to lose all empathy for you,” he warns. When Frederik is arrested for embezzlement, Mia looks to his diagnosis as a possible legal defense. This leads her to question the entirety of their marriage—especially the time she regards as their “three good years,” when Frederik was faithful and caring. Jungersen peppers the novel with the phrase “the real Frederik,” a notion that torments Mia whenever she tries to define it. Her fear that their best years were “just a by-product of a tumor” creates more suspense than Frederik’s criminal trial. Jungersen loses interest in the trial, focusing on Mia’s entanglement with Bernard Berman, Frederik’s lawyer and a member of her support group for spouses of brain-damaged people. As the novel progresses, Mia begins to suspect that many people around her suffer from brain damage, leaving the reader with an exciting sense of unease. (Jan.)