12 GOING ON 13 by Jan Myrdal

12 GOING ON 13

An Autobiographical Novel

KIRKUS REVIEW

 The third volume of lightly fictionalized autobiography by Swedish-born Myrdal (Childhood, 1991; Another World, 1994): a story infused with an agonizing, if sometimes overwrought, sense of loss and alienation as the young Myrdal tries to adjust to adolescence in a place he despises. When parents Alva and Gunnar, the celebrated social scientists, make 12-year-old Jan leave his beloved US, where the family's been living for the past year, and return to Sweden in 1940 to set an example of solidarity with wartime Europe, everything seems to end for him. Long contemptuous of Alva and Gunnar, who'd raised him as a subject for pedagogical research, Jan resents their hypocrisy--they underpaid their help in New York while boasting of their democratic sensibilities--and has long realized that his parents were incapable of appreciating his rich and imaginative fantasies. As they leave New York on a Finnish ship carrying war matÇriel, Jan locks himself in his cabin to read, remember, and especially to mourn the model railroad system he'd planned to build. As a child who not only reads widely but uses knowledge to construct his own detailed creations, Jan spent hours taking photographs and making movies to illustrate his convincingly realistic history of the ``Rusty Springs Railroad Corporation.'' Once back in Sweden, he angrily observes how that nation is everything America was not: The language, like German, is clumsy; the cities aren't real cities, like New York or Chicago; the trains are old-fashioned, the people narrow-minded and complacent. The boy also misses his beautiful Minnesota cousin, Elaise, and the young women who'd worked for his family in the US. Alva and Gunnar, meanwhile, resume their traveling, and Jan and his sisters are left with relatives as cold as their parents. Despairing, he's convinced that he's ``stuck in Sweden. Stuck forever.'' Childhood anguish bitterly recalled by a man unable to forget, or forgive, parents who practiced that most corrosive cruelty--the failure to understand their child.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 1-884468-01-2
Page count: 200pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1995




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