“Maybe if I’d been someone else I’d see it differently. But isn’t that the crux of the problem? Wouldn’t we all act differently if we were someone else?” (Quotation pos. 1939)
Madelaine Furston, called Linda, grows up in a small cabin at a lake somewhere in the rural woods of northern Minnesota. Her parents, old hippies, treat her like an adult person, letting her make her own decisions and ideas about live. In school, they call her “freak”.
When she is fourteen, almost fifteen years old, everything changes. Across the lake, which is very narrow at this point, one late winter day a family from the city with a small child arrives at their new summerhouse. The father soon leaves but the mother and the little boy stay. Linda begins to visit and soon she is Paul’s babysitter and feels like a girl friend to his twentysix years old mother Patra. She seems to have found a happy family who cares. Linda feels that something changes when Patra’s husband Leo, a Christian Scientist, returns, but she could not explain what was wrong because Patra and Leo are still exceptionally friendly, making it easy to assume that they are happy and everything is fine.
Theme and genre
This novel, shortlisted for the 2017 Man Booker Prize, is about the difference between a truth that you create for yourself and desperately want to believe, and a reality where you should act. Important topics are outsiders, family, growing up in the lonely nature, and the strong influence of religion.
The characters of this story are not always likeable and understandable in their behavior and thinking. Linda, who is trying to find out if she is still just a kid, longing for a real family, or a teenage girl with all her worries, trying too hard to be an adult. As an outsider, she is interested in the lives of other outsiders, pretending to understand what happiness in their lives or just making things up.
Plot and writing
Madelaine “Linda”, now thirtyseven years old, tells the story of her childhood and youth as the first person narrator. Not always chronological, her memories switch between years and ages, persons, incidents, and some events that happened, and this leaves us readers with some loose ends and implausibilities. Delightful to read are the poetical descriptions of the nature, the lakes and woods, but tough, sad and sometimes depressing, when it comes to the dreams, invented stories and real living conditions of the female main characters.
An interesting, but not always plausible coming-of-age-story, a demanding read with only partly coherent figures, leaving the reader with some open questions.