cover image Such Good Work

Such Good Work

Johannes Lichtman. Simon & Schuster, $26 (304p) ISBN 978-1-5011-9564-8

Lichtman’s excellent and timely debut follows a late 20-something creative writing instructor, Jonas, who leaves America for Sweden, where he shares dual citizenship. Fleeing a debilitating drug habit, Jonas settles in Lund, and then later Malmö, in order to study at university for a master’s degree in literature; without drugs, he takes on drinking and parties to fill the void. When, in fall 2015, he learns of Malmö’s growing influx of young Afghan refugees, however, he throws himself into volunteer work to teach the new arrivals Swedish, forming bonds with the boys and finding purpose for himself. This continues as, in America, Donald Trump begins his campaign for the presidency, amping up the fear of refugees in the minds of his followers. Jonas struggles with the hate he senses from his homeland and begins to see its encroachment on Sweden. Throughout, Lichtman expertly infuses his multicontinental narrative with humor and humanity, suggesting the dangers of intolerance while also poking fun at the white savior trope. Jonas may be helping others to make himself feel whole, yet his heartfelt actions stick with the reader in this winning novel. Agent: Chris Clemans, Clegg Agency. (Feb.)