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The Journey Home: A Novel





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About the book:

Holed away in lush British farm country, Disa runs a small inn with her friend Anthony. They're both past middle age, eccentrics who understand each other too well. Their life consists of early mornings, chores, twilight walks down to the reflecting pool. Guests descend on the place in spring, full of noise and expectation. Disa runs the kitchen, serving up gourmet dinners that have become famous among savvy food critics and tourists.

Olaf Olafsson's The Journey Home is constructed in tight succinct fragments, like journal entries. Shuttling between past and present, it's about reckoning with grief and bad memories in the face of death. Diagnosed with a terminal illness, Disa knows she needs to make a journey back to Iceland, a place that reflects the past back to her: a mother who abandoned her, a fiancÚ eventually killed by the Nazis.

Although not much directly happens in this novel, great tension develops between the pull of memory and the push of the moment. In Disa, Olafsson (Absolution) has created a vibrant character who wants to overcome sadness by plunging into the sensual. She's always cooking up fantastic meals, and the descriptions of food are truly mouthwatering: trout "fried with a sprinkling of ground almonds," apples "which I love to bake after they have soaked in port for a long, quiet afternoon." The powerful smells and sights of life rescue Disa from fear--if she doesn't quite believe in God, she believes in the immediacy of the world. This is the novel's subtly redemptive tendency, laid out piece by piece in Disa's soothing melancholy voice: "Sometimes you have to get a grip on yourself to keep your thoughts under control, but it's worth it. The reward is just around the next corner, whether it is a clutch of perfect eggs in a basket or the sound of birdsong on a still day. The soul can take delight in small things if one's dreams only leave it in peace long enough." --Emily White

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