Monday, May 23, 2016

The Last Days of My Mother

by Sölvi Björn Sigurðsson

I swear it was only a coincidence that I read this book while on vacation with my mother. I mean, a book about a middle-aged man who's gone on a trip with his dying mother for a last hurrah (and possible miracle cure) — who'd choose to read that while being a middle-aged man on a trip with his mother?

Seriously, though, I'd had it checked out from the library for a long time, and the book was approaching the maximum number of renewals, so the choice wasn't entirely down to me. In any event, turns out it's a very funny book, despite being about death and dying, and drinking and drugs. While the latter topics might be expected to be funny, they just as easily could be tragic; death and dying, meanwhile, need not be tragic if life is well-lived and concludes with dignity and self-determination.

Translated from Icelandic by a small university press, this book is delightful, even when it's being poignant and/or one of the characters is being morose. I laughed out loud a bunch of times. The main characters are quirky but also lovable and believable; minor characters tend toward the outlandish, but that's Amsterdam for you. I would recommend this book to anyone who's looking for contemporary fiction that has a sense of humor without being frivolous. One of the best of the year so far.

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