ROCK, PAPER, SCISSORS by Naja Marie Aidt


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From Danish-language poet and short-story author Aidt (Baboon, 2014) comes her first novel, a domestic drama that merges the mundane and the grotesque.

A father dies, and his two children are left to settle his affairs. They are Thomas and Jenny, and they sling insults at the dead old man, a criminal and drunk who was never around much. (“In our family the men don’t take very good care of their children,” Jenny jokes. “It’s a tradition.”) But Thomas discovers something among his father’s possessions: an unnerving amount of cash stowed away in a toaster oven. At first, he doesn’t know what to do with it; as the manager of a paper and office supply shop, he’s a somewhat repressed and timid man—which means, of course, that readers of Aidt’s short stories will know he’s primed for an explosion. The novel focuses on Thomas’ interpersonal relationships—with his wife, his niece, his business partner, etc.—all of which are fraught and simmering, and Aidt does a great job showing his incremental movements into frenzy, especially in details like his cigarette intake, which steadily mounts. But Aidt slips when handling her bigger emotional moments. Sometimes these slips are minor, as in one scene of rage that becomes unnecessarily silly when a character yells, “shitassfucking.” In other cases, the slips turn to spills, and Aidt has a difficult time getting back up—especially after a rape scene midway through that seems unconvincingly abrupt and out of character. Aidt has a sense for the rhythms of everyday life, but too often, she tries to shock readers. There’s great literature to be made about the balance between the mundane and the violent, but Aidt never stitches these two tones together.

An awkward mix of realism and soap opera that, despite intriguing characters, never quite coheres.

Pub Date: Aug. 11th, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-940953-16-8
Page count: 450pp
Publisher: Open Letter
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2015


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