cover image Child Wonder

Child Wonder

Roy Jacobsen, trans. from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett and Don Shaw. Graywolf, $15 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-55597-595-1

Jacobsen's (The Burnt-Out Town of Miracles) latest novel reveals a vanished way of life while rambling and indulging in nostalgic reveries, most of which are written in precious prose that strains credulity. Young Finn and his mother, Gerd, live in a small flat in a working-class suburb of Oslo. Having divorced Finn's father (who later died in a shipyard accident), Finn's mother works in a shoe shop and takes in a lodger for extra money. Kristian, a coarse but affable workman, gets the room, but not before Finn's father's second wife (a desperate drug addict) responds to the ad and leaves Finn and his mother with Finn's six-year-old half-sister, Linda (who has been drugged by her mother). As her loyal brother, Finn defends her from Kristian, the educational system, and bullies at school. The portrayal of Linda's evolving relationship with Finn and Gerd is genuinely touching and the working-class Norwegian milieu compelling, but Finn's reminiscing often becomes cloying: "our eyes just became bluer and bluer as the summer wore on, the most everlasting of all summers." If there are fans of homily encrusted stories set in Scandinavia, this will be their book. (Oct.)