The scars of childhood trauma run deep for Ella Nygaard, but when she’s forced to confront her past, she discovers that the truth may be as hard to pin down as her own memories.
"Angry" and "confrontational" would be kind ways to describe Ella, a ward of the state who bounced around a series of Danish foster homes beginning when she was 7 and her father murdered her mother. Now 28, with a nearly 12-year-old son, Alex, Ella lives on the dole outside Copenhagen and is occasionally beset by debilitating panic attacks that land her in the psych ward. After a particularly nasty one—it doesn’t help that she tries to quash the feelings with vodka—the state places Alex in a seemingly idyllic foster home in the country. Ella, even though she knows her limitations as a mother and as someone who’s barely able to function in society, can't stand the thought of him in care, and she snatches him away to her childhood home of Klitmøller in remote Jutland. Though Ella vehemently denies remembering anything about her mother's murder or almost anything else from that time, being back home makes her think for the first time that there could be a benefit to accessing those buried memories, especially when her grandmother starts professing Ella’s father’s innocence. Friis, best known for her collaborations with fellow Dane Lene Kaaberbøl on the Nina Borg series (The Considerate Killer, 2016, etc.), expertly weaves Ella’s current life with the days and weeks leading up to the crime, giving readers a glimpse into the psyche of her undeniably depressed mother and her perhaps misunderstood but hardly blameless father.
A deeply resonant tale about one woman’s attempts to embrace her past while setting herself free.