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Monday, March 16, 2015

The Cold Song by Linn Ullmann

I picked this up to read it because it was on the New York Times 100 Notable Books, but I should have picked it up because it is a well above average quality murder mystery.  Except in this story, the identity of the murderer is not really the mystery at all.

This is really a story about profoundly unhappy people who remain together.  We never find out why.  Is is because of their unhappiness or in spite of it.  The children and the parent are stuck in the story but the couple have a choice.

Here are the bare bones of what is going on.  In the weeks leading up to widowed matriarch Jenny Brodal's seventy-fifth birthday, Jon (the compulsively unfaithful husband and Jenny's son-in-law), Siri (the purposefully myopic and long suffering wife), Alma (the odd pre-teen daughter), Liv (the blameless sister to Alma), and Milla (the young and shapely babysitter who Jon manages to not sleep with) congregate in Siri's ancestral summer home outside Oslo to prepare for the party and set up for the tragedy that is about to occur.

It is a bit like returning to the scene of a previous crime, because Siri's brother died there many years before.  Jenny was not a natural mother and she left Siri in charge of her brother when she was far to young to understand exactly what that entailed, and he died as a result.  That is the elephant in the room throughout the story, the tragedy that set up the lives of all these people.
Siri works day and night in the restaurant business, Jon pretends to complete the last book in his trilogy, Jenny falls off the wagon after twenty years sober, Alma begins to develop a complex and Milla -- well, Milla's not part of the family dynamic. She's a doe babysitter, decided outsider and as the book's first act concludes, a  missing person. This is a well written, softly delivered look at just how lonely people who live together can become.

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