This book for me marks the start of spring, in the beginning of the year I had a bit of a reading slump, then my mum recommended to me A Gentleman in Moscow that I loved. But this is the first book this year I picked myself from my shelves and read with the interest I normally have in books I read. Something clicked in place.
It is a coming of age story, our main character fourteen-year-old Linda, living with her parents in n ex-commune in northern Minnesota. Her older self also narrates the story for us. Linda is regarded as a freak at school, living an isolated life, her relationship to her parents is a bit weird, they let her do what she wants, but also the warmth seems to be missing, though we never know if it’s only Linda’s perception, we only get to know her side of the story. At some point a your family moves in to a cabin on the other side of the lake. Linda gets close to Paul, their four-year-old son and Patra, Leo, the father, being mostly absent. Over the course of the book Linda tells us how the events of that year unfolded to reach an unavoidable and horrible climax. We also get to know how it impacted her life later.
For me this was also a book about loneliness, not being able to reach out and connect with the people who should be closest to us. Linda replaces the human contact she is missing with a very close bond to nature. She is extremely observant to the smallest changes in its state, yet she is unable to recognize similar changes in people. We can only guess that her issues in connecting with people and reacting to their emotions stem from her early childhood, feeling of being abandoned and then are strengthened by her odd relationship with her parents and lack of any meaningful and honest relationships with her peers at school. We also get to know that Linda is not shying away from manipulation, in this she is a typical teenager, she’ll manipulate her colleagues to get what she wants or to draw attention to herself.
The pervasive feeling in this book is definitely one of loneliness, emptiness. Every character in this book seems to be abandoned in some way and they are all bruised by it. Incapable of getting their life back on track, of trusting people again. I liked this book a lot, yes, there are better coming of age stories, but if we move on from this label to regarding it more as a books about distance, loneliness and nature I think it defends itself well. Even if some things are not really credible, in some moments Linda is way to helpless for a fourteen-year-old, her behaviour is often inconsistent, at one point she is smart enough to manipulate people only to become completely helpless in the next second. This somehow didn’t ring true for me, but I’d still recommend it if you are looking for an atmospheric read.