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Winner of the City of Regina Book Award, 1998.
How does a mild-mannered man become a killer? All he wants is to be left alone, but it is not to be. After a childhood of severe neglect and trauma – with a Nazi-sympathizing swine of a father and a dimwitted promiscuous mother – Sven grows up to continue the isolation that is the only way of life he knows, plagued by memories from the war, when his father was arrested for collaborating with Danish Nazi-sympathizers. Self-exiled from human companionship, Sven suffers from a paranoid bunker mentality; he is afraid of everything and everybody. It is not until new neighbors move in next door that his secure isolation and cherished tedium comes to an end with results far more tragic than even he had imagined. “Time passes and goes away somewhere, somehow, until the sight of the dead body, a wet stain spreading in front of his jeans, starts to bore him. It’s getting dark. The streetlights are on, reflecting in the window on the landing. He hears the swoosh of car tires on wet asphalt. That means it’s raining. ‘I killed a man and then I noticed it was raining.’ That sums it up. And speaking of sounds, that reminds him. He can’t hear the baby crying. Must have have cried himself to sleep, poor little bugger. All alone. Again.”
“Formally traditional, the book unspools its third-person narrative in clean, limpid, evocative prose that reads almost like breathing. … This novel sucks one in, and I found it hard to put down.” – Jim Bartley, Globe and Mail
“Holmström elegantly shifts perspectives between the multiple characters of her novel, sliding from Sven’s limited world to the dreams of the young mother who lives next door and to the sociopathic almost-man who got her pregnant. … Duty to children and family emerges as one of [her] central themes.” – Karen Herland, Literary Review of Canada
“Holmström has created a character whose experience of isolation seeps deep into the consciousness. In years to come, I might have to stop and think whether Sven Andersson was a character in a book or a person I really knew, and I will recall that he was both.” –Donna Bailey Nurse, National Post
“Her story is engaging, her characters are profound, memorable and human, and her prose is seamless, poignant and graceful. … A wonderfully complex and layered novel.” – Randy King, Regina Free Press