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Book 4 Completed

January 10, 2010

This is going to be a hard review for me to write. I simply don’t know how I feel about this book. It’s virtually plotless, relatively unsatisfying, occasionally confusing. And yet…it’s powerful. The language is astounding — the descriptions are written flawlessly. This book is strange — it brings you in and keeps you there despite not giving you any real reason to keep turning the page. Petterson is so talented that your entire self is folded up into this story without much effort at all and before you realize it, you are in Norway, and you can feel the snow, and Trond is real – his aches, his hurt, his loneliness, worry.

But I can’t say that it was an enjoyable read. There were moments where I wanted the plot to build — I had questions I wanted answered, I had ideas that needed affirmation. Petterson didn’t provide any of that. Instead, I was left with something that is probably a little more like real life and, well, wouldn’t you know it, I suppose that was the point. We have crazy life-changing moments and we live to be old and no one ever wraps them up in a package for us to understand.

What I love about this book are those tiny moments. The dog waiting to be fed. The lies we tell to strangers in order to be left alone. The way the river plays such a central role to the story that is being told. Those one-liners spoken in passing, but fraught with gut-wrenching power. That is all fantastic.

Somewhere deep down I know that I would have been crazy about this book a decade ago, when I was working on that English Literature degree at my liberal arts college. When my friends and I could sit and have meaningful conversations about contemporary literature and how Petterson’s sparse language is so reminiscent of Hemingway and how anyone who doesn’t get it should probably stick to all those pedestrian best-sellers. Oh, how we thought our erudition was charming.

Glad I grew up.

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