Boy meets girl among the headstones in Mazetti’s quirky debut.
Benny is tending his mother’s monstrously ornate grave in a Swedish cemetery; Desirée is sitting beside her husband’s tastefully understated slab. Thus begins a hopelessly incompatible relationship between a dairy farmer who favors women in lipstick and high heels, and a pale (hence the nickname Shrimp) devotee of opera and aromatherapy. An element of wry social observation underpins the unlikely romance: She’s a broody librarian who never really got to know her bird-watching, vegetarian husband; he’s a traditionalist member of a dying breed of overworked small landowners. Sexual attraction gets the couple off to an enthusiastic start, but gulfs of taste and expectation open up almost immediately. She finds the cows boring and his neglected farmhouse disgusting; he hates her preference for beige and indifference to domesticity. But both are lonely and afraid that no one would notice if they didn’t exist. Narrated in alternating voices, the story becomes a sequence of rows and reconciliations. The sex remains great, but physical satisfaction cannot overcome the culture gulf or the pair’s resistance to changing their lifestyles to accommodate the other. Separation follows, until Mazetti undermines the novel’s pleasing anti-romanticism by introducing a Band-Aid solution.
An offbeat, bittersweet, moderately engaging little fable.