Keep Saying Their Names

Knopf. May 2020. 304p. ISBN 9780525657361. $28.9. F
“S Is for Stolperstein,” says Stranger, referencing the metal plaques placed on pavements to commemorate the execution of Norwegian citizens during World War II. Stranger’s first novel to be published in English further commemorates those executions, recounting an episode from the war and its aftermath featuring Henry Oliver Rinnan, a Norwegian stooge for the Nazis who tortured and killed his fellow citizens. Here we meet the Jewish Komissar family, whose head, Hirsch, is murdered by the Germans at the behest of Rinnan and his gang. The author details the rise of Rinnan from callous, undistinguished youth to head of a unit that betrays Norwegian patriots to the Nazis; many of its heinous doings take place in a house commissioned by Rinnan for that purpose. After the war, one of Komissar’s sons moves into the house with his family and must relive past atrocities. By telling their story, Stranger draws on the history of his wife’s own family.
VERDICT This gripping narrative is presented in alphabetical “chapters” (“F Is for Firing Squad”) that move quickly and seamlessly between past and present, a device that adds immediacy and depth. Highly recommended to readers interested in accounts of wartime Europe or psychological studies of evil. [See Prepub Alert, 11/4/19.]
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