"A piercing story of a girl who responds to trauma by mustering the most powerful weapon available to her: silence. (...) melodic, mythological, transformative, a testament to literature’s powers..." Vanity Fair
Ellen has stopped talking. She thinks she may have killed her dad. Her brother’s 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.
|Product dimensions:||4.90(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.50(d)|
About the Author
LINDA BOSTRÖM KNAUSGÅRD (Sweden) is an author and poet, as well as a producer of documentaries for Swedish 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, has been awarded the prestigious Swedish August Prize and nominated for the Svenska Dagbladet Literary Prize.
Read an Excerpt
It’s a long time already since I stopped talking. They’re used to it now. My mum, my brother. My dad’s dead, so I don’t know what he’d have to say about it. Maybe that it was genetic. The genes come down hard in our family. Hard and without mercy. The direct lines of descendancy. Maybe the silence was always inside me. I used to say things that weren’t true. I said the sun was out when it was raining. That the porridge we ate was green like the grass and tasted like soil. I said school was like walking into pitch darkness every day. Like having to hold on to a handrail until it was time to go home. What did I do when school was over? I certainly didn’t play with my brother, he locked himself away in his room with his music. He nailed the door shut. He pissed in bottles he kept. It was what they were for.
The silence makes no difference. You mustn’t believe otherwise. You mustn’t believe the sun will rise in the morning, because you can’t ever be sure it will. I haven’t used the notebook my mum gave me. In case there’s something you want to communicate, she said. The notebook was a kind of consent. She was accepting my silence. Leaving me alone. At some point it would cease. Most likely it would cease.
I passed my hand over the window sill and drew outlines in the dust that stuck to my palm. A spruce tree and a Father Christmas. It was all I could think of. Thoughts come so slowly and express themselves so simply: pellets, bread slice, pond.
Did I say we lived in an apartment? There was no contact with nature, apart from the park where I saw my first flasher. I was sitting on top of the climbing frame and the man stood below and exposed himself completely. He took off his pants altogether. His thing was stiff and purple. I stared and noted the colour.
I had friends, but they don’t come round anymore. They found other apartments to visit once the silence began. Before that, there were always kids at ours. My mum was bonkers. At ours you could shoot pucks against the double doors. We built a skateboard ramp up against the bookshelves, and the apartment was so big we could roller-skate in it. It made marks in the parquet, but the important thing was for the children to play. The place is quiet now. That’s one difference anyway.
I stopped talking when growing began to take up too much space inside me. I was sure I couldn’t do both, grow and talk at the same time. I think perhaps I was the sort of person who liked to take charge, and it felt good to give that up. There were so many to keep track of. So many dreams to fulfil. Wish something of me, I could say. But I could never make any wish come true. Not really.
I could have talked about my mum. But I said nothing. I didn’t want her glitzy smiles. Her perfect hair. Her wanting me to be a beautiful girl. To her, beauty was something on its own. An important property that had to be cultivated like a flower. You had to sow the seed and make sure to water it so you could watch it grow. I could have been like her. Dark, with a kind of sparkle that went without saying. But somehow I fell short. I was no force of nature, the way she was. I was infected by doubt. It was everywhere. It ran through the marrow of my spine and spread from there. I felt doubt assail me. Days and nights, sunsets awash with doubt.
I wrote nothing in my notebook, but I always knew where it was. I moved it from the top cupboard to under the pillow, then back to the cupboard again. Sometimes I hid it behind the toilet in case I needed to write something there.
My dad’s dead. Did I mention that? It’s my fault. I prayed out loud to God for him to die and he did. One morning he was lying there motionless in his bed. That was the power there was in me speaking. Maybe what I said about growing wasn’t right. Maybe I stopped talking because my wish came true. You think you want your wishes to come true. But you don’t. You should never ask for what you want. It disturbs the order of things. The way you really want them. You want to be disappointed. You want to be hurt and have to struggle to get over it. You want the wrong presents on your birthday. You might think you want what you wish for, but you don’t.