Being a grown-up is all too often a serious business: rarely do we allow ourselves a moment to review life through childlike eyes. Finnish writer Selja Ahava grapples with this in her second novel, which opens with the thoughts of a girl trying to piece together why a shard of ice that fell from a plane’s underbelly has decapitated her mother.
It’s a vision that leaves other tales told from a child’s-eye view in the dust. As amusing and wise as Tove Jansson’s six-year-old Sophia may be, and as entertainingly frank as Jamaica Kincaid’s Annie John is, neither competes with Saara, the intense first-person narrator of the opening part of this novel. Ahava steers clear of the hygge trend: this book has more of a resemblance to the work of Dorthe Nors, another Scandinavian master of simple, stirring voices that interrogate the tragicomedy of human existence.
A hundred pages in, alas, we’re torn away from Saara and flung far west – over to the Scottish island of Lewis to meet Hamish MacKay, survivor of four lightning strikes. This sudden separation is jarring. What’s the meaning of it? A connection soon emerges: Saara’s dear Auntie Annu has