Chronic pain takes center stage in this funny, moving meditation on coming to terms with your body's limitations.
Norwegian transplant Laura must find her way in New York City as a newly single mother with an unpredictable and vulnerable body. "For years, I've considered it an established fact that the female body is a pain in the ass," she deadpans in the novel's opening line. "The male body seems like a sunny campsite in comparison." In her mid-20s, Laura was diagnosed with endometriosis, a painful condition that left many of her internal organs scarred and fused together despite numerous treatments and corrective surgeries. Now, at 36, she must also navigate a recent divorce, single parenthood, and dating women and men in a body that won't always cooperate. When Kjetil, the loving Norwegian ex Laura abandoned to move to the U.S. and pursue a writing degree, suddenly immigrates to the city, Laura is yet again confronted with the particular pains of her past. Havelin's debut moves backward in time, from the chaos of contemporary New York to the thrill of coming-of-age in a body that still feels full of promise. As a young girl in Norway, Laura struggled with chronic stomach pain and severe allergies that derailed her interest in figure skating, alienated her from her parents and friends, and eventually disrupted her ability to work, love, and feel productive. "It's crystal clear to me that no one wants to hear about it," thinks Laura, "but I will never finish needing to tell how much it hurt, how much it hurts, how bad it is." It's unusual to encounter such open and bold writing about pain as well as the attendant fear, resentment, and stress that burden someone who needs care and treatment. Havelin's novel is unsparing in this regard, showing how deeply Laura struggles with the psychological burdens of having a body with a mind of its own and how hard she works to get free. She's a caustic, wry, and tender heroine who will make you root for her even in her darkest moments.
A brave and bold novel about radical self-acceptance and living in the face of trauma.