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Review: Norwegian by Night

Norwegian by Night

Norwegian by Night
By Derek B. Miller
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), Hardcover, 9780547934877, May 2013, 304pp.

The Short of It:

True, this story is considered crime fiction but it’s wrapped in memory and heartache and has a great protagonist that you can’t help but root for.

The Rest of It:

Sheldon Horowitz, a former Marine sniper in the Korean War, now widowed at 82, agrees to leave New York to live with his granddaughter Rhea and her husband Lars, in Norway.

Norway is foreign to Sheldon in a lot of ways. He misses his old life in New York, his wife of many years, Mabel and the son he lost in the Vietnam War, Saul. But Sheldon’s biggest problem in Norway is the dementia that is slowly taking hold him. In his mind, the memories of his former life are crisp and so real that he loses track of what’s real and what’s not.

One day, alone in his apartment, he opens his door to a woman and child in distress and that begins his trek across the country.

When I pitched this book to my book club over a year ago, it was more of a crap shoot than anything because it’s not the kind of book we typically pitch.  At the time, we had not really read crime fiction for the club before and it’s been a really long time since we’ve read a book with an older protagonist. So, I took a chance and I’m glad I did.

It was a surprisingly good read. Full of heart and yes, a little bit of sadness but with it being crime fiction and all, it was also a page turner, which is good for this time of the year when you are wrapping up loose ends and just want kick back with a good book.

Sheldon Horowitz is a character that will stay with me for a very long time. He’s smart, has spunk, is loving and understanding when he needs to be but he’s also strong-willed and opinionated which makes for some colorful conversations. When his loved ones are put in peril, his body seems to know what to do even though he is 82 years old and not the man he used to be, at least not physically. I seriously adored him.

Have you read Norwegian by Night or heard of it?  I heard of it for the first time last year but it’s gotten quite a bit of publicity:

An ECONOMIST TOP FICTION TITLE OF THE YEAR
A FINANCIAL TIMES BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR
A GUARDIAN BEST CRIME AND THRILLER OF THE YEAR
A KIRKUS REVIEWS BEST CRIME NOVEL OF THE YEAR

It will be interesting to hear what the club has to say about it. On the surface it feels like there is not enough to discuss but I suspect that there is since it touches on so many different topics (war, dementia, aging, Miller’s handling of past and present and his use of fantastical elements to tell the story).

It’s a great book to end the year with.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: Summerlong

Summerlong

Summerlong
By Dean Bakopoulos
(Ecco Press, Hardcover, 9780062321169, June 2015, 368pp.)

The Short of It:

A very dark look at marriage in the midst of a midlife crisis. Heavily laced with tension but so hard to look away.

The Rest of It:

See that cover? Looking at it now, I’d say it hints at the trouble lurking between its pages but I bet a lot of readers picked this one up thinking it was a fun beach read. It is SO not that.

Nope. This one is about a marriage falling apart during a long, hot summer in Iowa. Don has a secret. His failures as a real estate agent have taken their toll and due to the insurmountable debt he’s created, he’s about to lose his home. Claire, aware of their financial troubles but not fully in the know over just how bad it’s gotten, doesn’t take the news all that well and becomes attracted to Charlie, who happens to be in town dealing with some property after his father’s death.

One evening, Don takes a walk in the neighborhood and meets a young woman who goes by the name ABC. She’s young and vibrant but grieving over a loss of her own. She’s working as a caretaker for a pot-smoking pistol of a lady who’s seen a thing or two in her day. ABC invites him in to light up and what seems totally out of character for Don, suddenly becomes a regular thing.

Don and Claire have so many issues. As parents, they find themselves so completely absorbed with their own problems, that they both end up leaving the house one night only to realize the next morning that they left their kids unattended.

Surprisingly, ABC and Charlie also have their own issues to deal with. These four people hook-up with each other, sometimes in surprising combinations but they are all searching for the same thing. Love, acceptance, redemption, peace.

I didn’t like Claire. She’s self-absorbed, bitchy and intent on being miserable. She’s one of THOSE people but sadly, I could relate to some of what she was going through. As Don tries his hardest to make things right, she continues to push him away and I wanted to slap her for it. Yeah, I guess I liked Don a lot.

I really loved this book. It’s dark because it paints such a real picture of a marriage in crisis but in between the crusty bits there’s hope, too. I love how the characters play off of one another. It’s so natural and effortless even though as a reader sometimes I caught myself thinking, “No! Don’t do it!”

Summer is typically a time for lighter, fluffier reads but not for me.  I prefer to sink my teeth into something with a little bite and this book satisfied all my wants.

Source: Sent to me by the publisher.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.