- Book: One Last Time
- Location: Norway
- Author: Helga Flatland
Families are such a complex unit, aren’t they? Helga Flatland is adept at capturing the nuanced communications between family members, the subtleties of body language and barbs, the love that underpins it all and the frustrations of living within a homogenous group where people are all different yet need to conform to the family structure.
In this novel she brings together grandmother Anne who has just been diagnosed with terminal colon cancer; daughter Sigrid, who is a GP and 19 year old granddaughter Mia. There are other players too, family members who are part of the fabric as it adjusts to the changing circumstances, as Anne’s condition worsens.
Given her job, Sigrid feels she has the responsibility to manage the medical drama as it unfolds, but she is also trying to reconcile the lack of mothering she felt she experienced herself from Anne. She is the lynchpin in the evolving dynamic as Anne looks towards her end of life and her efforts to keep control over how it might happen. How long can Anne continue to swim in the lake at the bottom of her garden in the mountains? It has been a daily ritual that is extreme as the seasons but is something she has relished for herself.
This is a beautifully layered novel where you can feel the full range of emotions that manifest at such a traumatic time. The tug of heartstrings between the family members, the scratchy frustrations and the longing for something different are all counter balanced at some level by a profound contentment within the status quo.
Helga Flatland has the moniker of the ‘Norwegian Anne Tyler” and indeed that is well deserved. This is an affecting, relatable and subtly observed story of one family at a point of building crisis. Excellently translated by Rosie Hedger.