BROKEN by Karin Fossum


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The creator of Inspector Konrad Sejer (The Water’s Edge, 2009, etc.) constructs a simple, excruciating test of an unassuming hero’s claim to be a good person.

The book's arresting first chapter introduces a female author whose characters come to life. Alvar Eide, whom we meet as the story opens, has always thought of himself as a good person. Even before he’s named Alvar Eide by the author whose attention he solicits, he offers due apologies for jumping to the head of the line among her imaginary offspring, ahead of the woman with the dead child whose story the author has been planning to tell. When he succeeds in getting the author to create a story for him, Alvar is happy that she’s retained his conscientious work ethic and regular habits. He lives alone in an upstairs flat near the Gallery Krantz, where he works as a salesperson. But Alvar, who continues to interrupt the initially placid narrative with return visits to his author, is uneasy. He fears the dramatic complications that he knows must follow if his story is to be a story at all. Given his formative childhood memory of his parents’ refusal to offer help to the victims of a horrifying accident, he doesn’t want his untried virtue to be tested. Yet, as his author points out, his story, once begun, must take on a life of its own, and when a teenaged drug addict comes into the gallery to get out of the cold, he can’t help giving her a cup of coffee to warm her up. This gesture sets him on the road to ever deeper involvement with a girl of whom he knows nothing but her vulnerability, her greed and her ability to manipulate him by playing on his claim to be a good person.

A chamber play for two characters whose moralizing is amplified by a running debate over the nature of fiction and its vicissitudes. The result is slender but haunting.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-15-101366-1
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2010


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