cover image Children in Reindeer Woods

Children in Reindeer Woods

Krist%C3%ADn %C3%93marsd%C3%B3ttir, trans. from the Icelandic by Lytton Smith. O

After soldiers of an absurd and mysterious war decimate a rural "temporary home for children," and subsequently each other, the sole survivors%E2%80%94Billie, a feverishly imaginative 11-year-old girl, and Rafael, a defected and disturbed soldier%E2%80%94try to build a bucolic life in Icelandic poet, playwright, and visual artist %C3%93marsd%C3%B3ttir's latest novel (after In and Out the Window). Along with a brood of chickens, a cat, and some quaintly lowing cows, Rafael and Billie are left to their own devices. As a result, the narrative arc is loose, but nonetheless engaging. Billie frequently recalls her absent parents and the camp's deceased caretakers, while Rafael strives to change his life, to become a farmer despite his self-defensive inclinations toward violence. Precocious Billie in her agreeable captivity takes a child's avid interest in her captor, whose fate she dreams she might fashion for the better, like the Barbie dolls she loves. %C3%93marsd%C3%B3ttir revels in the power-play that their precarious co-existence entails, suffusing this work with a commixture of horror, comedy, and delight. (Apr.)