#BookReview Welcome To America by Linda Boström Knausgård @WorldEdBooks

20190824_143008About the Book

Ellen is 11. She stopped talking when her father died. She thinks she may have killed her mentally ill father – she prayed hard enough for it. Her brother has barricaded himself in his room. Their mother, a successful actress, carries on as normal. “We’re a family of light!” she insists. But darkness seeps in everywhere and in their separate worlds each of them longs for togetherness.

Welcome to America is a dark and scintillating portrait of a sensitive, strong-willed child and a young mind in the throes of trauma, a family on the brink of implosion, and the love that threatens to tear them apart.

Format: Paperback (128 pp.)                Publisher: World Editions
Publication date: 3rd October 2019  Genre: Literary Fiction, Translated Fiction

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Find Welcome to America on Goodreads

My Review

In Welcome to America (translated from the Swedish by Martin Aitken) the author takes the reader inside the mind of a traumatised, troubled individual.  What’s surprising is that the articulate, introspective, reflective character we encounter is an eleven year-old girl.  Ellen’s mature use of language and extensive vocabulary seem way beyond her years.

Ellen feels guilt about the death of her father, a guilt born out of having wished for it,  albeit because of the strain his unstable mental state placed on her family.  ‘Death stood between us now, like a river running by, and I could wade through that river,  across to the other shore, and know I was safe.’   The manifestations of her father’s mental condition are not the only things that have caused fear in Ellen’s life.  There’s her brother’s inexplicable cruelty to her and his strange ways that include erecting barriers to prevent anyone entering his room.  And there’s her belief that she is responsible, through wishing for them, for events that are clearly accidental or not her fault.

Ellen’s is a odd, lonely and isolated existence but one she seems to find strangely comforting. ‘Night was the time I liked best… Night was a friend.  Silence wasn’t odd at night, and loneliness unfeigned.’  Her need to exercise control over some/any aspect of her life appears to be at the root of her decision to stop talking.  ‘I wanted to sit in enduring silence, to feel it grow strong and take everything into its possession.’ At times, she has to discipline herself not to speak, to restrain that natural impulse.

Although Ellen’s mother constantly insists, “We’re a family of light!”, for much of the book it feels very much the opposite.  However, gradually there are glimpses of light starting with something as simple as a sentence written in a notebook, a family meal, a shared pleasure and the thought, ‘It occurred to me that I might be happy’.   I can’t imagine anyone finishing this book and not wishing this to be the case for Ellen.

Yes, Welcome to America is dark and at times deeply troubling but it is also beautifully written and leaves the reader with the feeling there is always at least the possibility of happiness however fleeting.

I received an advance review copy courtesy of World Editions

Linda Bostrom KnausgardAbout the Author

LINDA BOSTRÖM KNAUSGÅRD is a Swedish author and poet, as well as a producer of documentaries for national radio. Her first novel, The Helios Disaster, was awarded the Mare Kandre Prize and shortlisted for the Swedish Radio Novel Award 2014.

Welcome to America, her second novel, was nominated for the prestigious Swedish August Prize and the Svenska Dagbladet Literary Prize. (Photo credit: Goodreads author page)

Connect with Linda
Website | Goodreads

About the Translator

MARTIN AITKEN is a full-time translator of Scandinavian literature.  His recent translation of Hanne Ørstavik’s Love was a finalist for the 2018 National Book Award.