cover image Wonderful Women by Th -Op/111

Wonderful Women by Th -Op/111

Monika Fagerholm. New Press, $25 (330pp) ISBN 978-1-56584-338-7

Like My Life as a Dog, written by her countryman Rider Jonsson, Fagerholm's debut novel of two Swedish families on summer vacation has an exacting eye for the world of childhood and the less innocent world of adults. This deceptively simple saga of childish and adult discontents compresses a handful of summers during the 1960s, when both families' versions of the American-style good life still gleamed bright. When eight-year-old Thomas's bourgeois, slightly dull family rents a summer house by the sea in 1962, they meet the Americanized ""Angels"" (so dubbed for their nicknamed imported Chevy Chevelle). The families are so complementarily mismatched that friendships form: Thomas's stolid father, Kayus, bonds with the effervescent Gabriel ""Gabby"" Angel; the insular Isabella with the former airline attendant, Rosa; and the sullen, withdrawn Thomas with the tomboyish youngest Angel daughter, Renee. Through Thomas and Renee, Fagerholm wonderfully evokes puppy love, just as she explores the midlife crises of Isabella and Rosa. In a brief closing section, Fagerholm puts this ""summer paradise"" into poignant perspective with a compact narrative that describes Renee's wild adolescence as a David Bowie-inspired ""Space Child"" rebelling against the falseness of her parents' marriage until a tragic accident puts a stop to her rebellion. This tale may seem preoccupied with the surface of things, but it resonates with childhood's aches and hidden currents of search. (Apr.) FYI: Wonderful Women by the Sea has won two literary prizes: Sweden's August Prize and Finland's Runeberg Prize.