Morten Ramsland, , trans. from the Danish by Tiina Nunnally. . St. Martin's/Dunne, $24.95 (383pp) ISBN 978-0-312-37654-3
For years, Asger Erikkson, the narrator of Ramsland's funny and touching novel, has struggled to keep his family history buried. But when Asger is called home to Denmark to the deathbed of his beloved Grandma Bjørk, the stories spill forth, out of order and out of control. First, they summon long-suppressed guilt (Asger caused his grandfather, who survived Buchenwald, to collapse by tricking him into drinking urine, for instance) and then spiral outward, filling in the many blanks from three generations of the Erikkson family. Nuttiness and depravity abound, as Asger's grandfather's many character flaws are revealed, a son is born in a filthy privy, cousins fall in love and an increasingly ill Bjørk begins to babble about a hidden fortune. In his first novel to be translated into English (it won the Danish Best Novel award), Ramsland masterfully captures a zigzagging litany of recollections across generations and the cold North Sea, revealing the family's true fortune: survival in the space between deep dysfunction and enduring love.
Reviewed on: 10/06/2008
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