Formally playful, poignant, understated, and often acutely funny, Øyehaug's English-language debut teems with humanity.
In this collection of short—and short-short—stories, fluidly translated from the Norwegian by Dickson, Øyehaug swipes a deft finger through messy layers of human experience and inspects with a keen and generous eye the everyday tragedies, tender absurdities, and quiet joys of life. In the book's spectacular opener, "Nice and Mild," a man paralyzed by anxiety and indecision heads to IKEA for blinds for his son's room. As he talks himself out of the car, across the parking lot, and into the store, he thinks "this could be the start of a virtuous circle," the first step toward a new proactive self, the blinds "a lifeline that's been thrown to me from dry land as I flail and flounder in the waves." In "Small Knot," a son is tethered to his mother for life, and beyond, by an uncuttable umbilical cord in a delightfully morbid and literal rendering of familial bonds and their reverberations through the future. In "Deal," a girl's bicycle breaks shortly after she sets out to run away, and she misses the last ferry out of town. Stranded, she strikes a curious deal with a neighbor who has rescued her and is in need of a little rescuing himself. "Gold Pattern" is a melancholy in-coitus account of a vaguely coupled pair with intermittent and unequal passions, a heart-pricking tale of progressive loss and longing. And in “An Entire Family Disappears,” a grand-uncle rattles his family at a funeral by telling a tale of how easily they might not have come to exist, told in dramatic form with the story unfolding entirely in stage directions.
A near-perfect collection about the knots we tie ourselves into and the countless ways we intertwine in the pursuit of sex, love, compassion, and family.