Per Petterson's slender, subtly incisive new novel…lives in the liminal, nauseating space where you don't know who you are anymore or what will become of you. Arvid, like many of Petterson's narrators, is much more astronaut than cowboy, an emotional rocket man floating through a life he no longer understands, searching the past for clues. It sounds bleak, but instead it's rather dreamy and tenuous, like the thoughts one has in the brief moment between sleeping and waking. Clean sentence after clean sentence, Petterson conveys both the melancholy and the demi-pleasurable sensation of being fundamentally untethered.
The New York Times Book Review
Like an emotional sucker punch, the latest novel from the much-acclaimed Petterson (a prequel to 2006's In the Wake) examines lives half-lived, ending, and perhaps beginning anew. In 1989, 37-year-old Arvid Jansen's marriage is ending and his mother is dying of cancer. Hoping to leave his marital woes behind in Oslo, Jansen follows his Danish-born mother to her home country, to the beach house where the family spent summers. During the ferry ride and the following days in Denmark, Jansen recalls his childhood bond with his mother and his decision, after two years of college, to leave school and join his fellow Communists in the factories. He struggles with his commitment to communism--the title is a line from a poem by Mao--and with his place in his family and in the larger world. Thankfully, there is neither overt sentimentalism nor a deathbed declaration of love between mother and son, but Petterson blends enough hope with the gorgeously evoked melancholy to come up with a heartbreaking and cautiously optimistic work. (Aug.)
“Like an emotional sucker punch...Petterson blends enough hope with the gorgeously evoked melancholy to come up with a heartbreaking and cautiously optimistic work.” The Denver Post
“Petterson's prose contains a sneaky, insidious beauty...his sentences can stop your breathing and leave tears welling up...[and] his readers will find that they're in the hands of a master whose quiet, unforgettable voice leaves you yearning to hear more.” Chuck Leddy, The Boston Globe
“I Curse the River of Time hits the mark....It's complex and rich...a subtle meditation on the long, unstoppable river of time” Heller McAlpin, NPR's "Books We Like"
“Petterson's writing has returned to its artistic home, and what's more, returned to it with greater maturity and confidence....Here he is absolutely courageous.” Rachel Cusk, USA Today
“An emotional suckerpunch. . . . Petterson blends enough hope with the gorgeously evoked melancholy to come up with a heartbreaking and cautiously optimistic work.” Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Petterson tells another poignant, harrowing and sometimes comic story of a man coming to terms with his dying mother, his failures (job, marriage) and his failures in the eyes of his mother: 'You squirt!' But mother and son are bound by feelings and memories for which even the word 'love' doesn't do justice.” The Wall Street Journal
“All the inevitability of life, its fragile glue and the doubts that stalk the survivors are summoned and considered in Petterson's candid, allusive fiction. There is no easy sentiment, only genuine emotional power. His tender new novel is as masterfully evocative as In the Wake and Out Stealing Horses, as gentle as To Siberia, and as exceptional as all three.” The Irish Times
“Though Petterson is often compared to Hemingway and Carver, he has etched a vernacular all his own. The loveliness of his prose lies not only with its distilled nature, but also in its repetitions and unexpected cadences, which infuse his style with a tenderness unseen in other spare prose virtuosos.” The Collagist
“The atmosphere of this latest from Petterson, famed for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award winner Out Stealing Horses, is as gray as the stark Norwegian landscape. Melancholy permeates every character like a dense Oslo fog. Yet, this author's gift is his ability to convey so much emotion in such a sparse prose style.” Library Journal, starred review
“[Petterson] offers here a kind of origami novel: time bends and folds around the characters so they are both young and old, healthy and sick, dead and alive. His considerable skill is evident in the clarity with which readers are immersed in each chapter--though we may leap backwards and forwards on the temporal plane, we never stumble or trip. . . . The final product is something important, lovely, and a bit mysterious.” Foreword Magazine
“[Petterson] deftly alternates between present and past. . . . His prose is elegant and spare.” Booklist
“[A] melancholy novel. . . . Fans--and curious newcomers--will snap it up.” Newsday
In Norwegian novelist Petterson's poetic, moody prequel to In the Wake (U.S. 2006), introspective protagonist Arvid Jansen spends a good deal of his time smoking, drinking, referencing book titles, and describing Scandinavian landscapes as he struggles to deal with his mother's cancer, his divorce, and the demise of communism. Written in highly descriptive prose, the story is centered in 1989 Oslo but skips back and forth through time, often without definitive shifts for listeners that might be clearer on the printed page. Though narrator Jefferson Mays's (The Lazarus Project) reading is well paced, the spiraling of the story, though relatively brief, may be too demanding for casual audiences, and a full picture of a man who hesitates to act and his family is never quite attained. Recommended for larger collections with an international literary focus. [The Graywolf hc received a starred review, LJ 4/15/10.—Ed.]—Joyce Kessel, Villa Maria Coll., Buffalo