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%E2%80%99s (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. %E2%80%9C[Y]ou must be%E2%80%A6 prepared for%E2%80%A6 [him] to lose all empathy for you,%E2%80%9D 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%E2%80%94especially the time she regards as their %E2%80%9Cthree good years,%E2%80%9D when Frederik was faithful and caring. Jungersen peppers the novel with the phrase %E2%80%9Cthe real Frederik,%E2%80%9D a notion that torments Mia whenever she tries to define it. Her fear that their best years were %E2%80%9Cjust a by-product of a tumor%E2%80%9D creates more suspense than Frederik%E2%80%99s criminal trial. Jungersen loses interest in the trial, focusing on Mia%E2%80%99s entanglement with Bernard Berman, Frederik%E2%80%99s 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.)