Monday, January 23, 2023

The Sorrows Of An American by Siri Hustvedt


Erik Davidsen finds himself in middle age with a need to put his life back together.  His wife has left him.  His father has recently died, as did the husband of his beloved sister, Inga.  He is a psychiatrist but questions if it has lost its appeal for him.  He has to console his mother and sister while going through his father's papers.  He and Inga find some cryptic notes in his father's papers that hint at a huge secret in his life and are determined to find out what it was.

They grew up in the rural area of Minnesota where many others with their Scandinavian background settled.  Most of the relatives and friends of their father are either dead or very ill but eventually they find a few people who remember the woman references in the notes.  What will they find out about their father?

Meanwhile, both brother and sister are facing other issues.  Erik has rented out his basement apartment to a young mother and her precocious daughter and finds himself attracted to the mother.  Inga discovers a huge secret about her deceased novelist husband that can tear her family apart.  This is a year of secrets and discovery and the two will end the year changed forever.

This is a novel about family relationships, the immigrant experience and secrets.  Both Erik and Inga find themselves in their middle ages needing to reinvent themselves for the future and to reconcile themselves with the past.  There are other stories told in the novel but the focus is on the two siblings.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction. 

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