A young family moves to Sweden to pursue an idyllic life in Sacks' debut novel.
When Sam inherits a cottage from his stepgrandmother, he and his pregnant wife barely hesitate but pack up their lives in Brooklyn and move, excited to raise their child in this place of ice-cold lakes and dappled sunlight. Merry spends her days picking fresh produce from the garden and baking homemade treats, taking baby Conor for long outings in the woods, and Sam works to begin a new career in documentary film. But from the very beginning of the novel, as both characters take turns narrating the story, it’s clear there's something rotten at the core of this perfection. When Merry’s best friend from childhood, Frank, comes for a visit, she can immediately see the ugliness beneath this facade. She knows Merry too well, knows her history of slipping from persona to persona, and she can see Sam for what he is. But Frank has her own secrets, and as her voice joins the others in narrating the story, it becomes clear that she's suffering for her own sins and may not be able—or willing—to save anyone. Sacks has crafted a beguiling and frightening modern fairy tale, an Eden story that presents an Adam and Eve who were never innocent and who try to make over the world on their own terms only to find that evil thrives even in the most ideal of settings. Sacks’ writing is at once lush in description but also spare; she uses the white space around the words to nurture a sense of dread.
Hard to read but also bewitchingly hard to put down—a fitting contradiction in a novel that explores the corruption at the heart of beauty.