Norwegian by Night by Derek B. Miller
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, ISBN 978-0547934877
May 21, 2013, 304 pages
"A luminous novel, a police thriller, and the funniest book about war crimes and dementia you are likely to read."
Well, that sounds like something interesting, a bit different..and it is.
Sheldon Horowitz might not be quite like any character you have ever met. Jewish, a New Yorker his entire life, a Korean War veteran, a watch repair man, a widower, a father, a grandfather, he is a man lost in his new world. At the insistence of his beloved granddaughter, he has moved to Norway to live with her and her Norwegian husband. He does not know the city, he does not speak the language, but he does know that something bad is going on with their upstairs neighbor when he hears the terrible fighting.
Soon, he finds himself the witness to a murder and the lone protector of a little boy, the son of the murdered woman. And so starts the great Huck Finn like adventure to rescue the boy and find who Sheldon can trust to protect him. But of course, it will not be that simple
Sheldon is a man with issues. Is he mad, is he suffering from dementia...or is he just haunted by his past, his duty as a sniper in the war, his guilt about his son joining the army and getting killed in Vietnam? That is left up to the reader, but whatever you decide, he is a pip, believing he is being chased by Chinese soldiers, assisted by his long dead comrades.
For once, this is a book that does not take too long to tell the story. It is tight and to the point, not a scene wasted. The book moves along at a snappy pace, covering a lot of ground, by stolen boat and stolen tractor, as a Serbian madman hunts him and the boy down. But I will warn you, it is a very crooked path they are on, literally and figuratively. some of it is real and some of it is real only in the old mans mind. It jumps back to the past, way lays into discussions of religion and theology, morality and mortality along the way. Sounds too heavy? Well, no, because at times it is also laugh out loud funny and for a bit, so sad that I dare you not to cry. But sad in a very uplifting, dare i say redemptive way.
Is it a mystery, a thriller?
A book about a road trip?
A character study of an elderly man looking back on the perceived failings of his life?
Is it a story about guilt and attempted redemption?
It it a shout out at God by an angry man?
Is it a story of true good and evil?
Is it a police procedural?
Is it funny?
Is it sad?
Is it a book that will make you think?
Why, yes it is!
It is all these things and more, a very enjoyable book, a charming book, with a great character, Sheldon, who will remain with you after you have read that last page and flipped the book close.
I think you will enjoy it.
My thanks to the publisher for providing a copy for review.