A woman juggles domestic calamities while trying to avoid a more serious crisis in German author Krügel's first novel to be translated into English.
Katharina lives near Lübeck on Germany’s Baltic coast, but her tone of wryly comic exasperation closely resembles that of popular frazzled working-mother heroines from Britain, Australia, and the U.S. A part-time music teacher, Katharina has been carrying most of the responsibility for care of her household and two children—Helli, a stubborn and emotionally chaotic 11-year-old recently diagnosed with ADHD, and 17-year-old Alex, whose joyful immersion in musical theater feels to his classically trained mother like rebellion—ever since economic necessity forced her architect husband, Costas, to take a job in Berlin. For more than a year he has come home only on weekends, a situation she understands yet resents. This weekend he’s staying in Berlin for his office Christmas party, and Katharina has declined an invitation to join him. Instead she’s planned her first visit in 15 years from musician and former flatmate Kilian, her platonic best friend before she met Costas. But the day goes awry early when Katharina must collect Helli from school after one of the girl's explosive, semi-intentional nosebleeds. Various crises follow. Katharina helps her neighbors Theo and Heinz search for the thumb Theo’s cut off while tinkering with the lawnmower. Alex—whom Katharina thought was gay—introduces his annoyingly perfect girlfriend. Helli has a major meltdown on horseback. Katharina’s musician sister demands help with her failing love life. Katharina gets dangerously drunk with Kilian. The pet rats escape. It all reads like a domestic romp except for the darker fears and regrets that Katharina can't quite escape, like a third baby in her past or the fact that she’s yet to make a doctor’s appointment or tell Costas about the lump she’s found in her breast.
Krügel knows her way around both the salty and sweet of marriage and motherhood.