Ecco. Aug. 2022. 272p. ISBN 9780063226982. $28.99. F
In renowned Icelandic author Olafsson’s first novel written in English, 74-year-old restaurateur Kristófer, a widower struggling with some cognitive issues, decides to close his popular restaurant as COVID begins ripping through Iceland. At the same time, he is stunned to receive a Facebook friend request from Miko, the love of his life for a few months in 1969. In her posting, Miko tells him that she is seriously ill with the virus. Back in the 1960s, Kristófer had quit the London School of Economics and had gone to work for Miko’s father in his small but popular Japanese restaurant. Now, with the travel ban between Iceland and Japan looming, Kristófer flies to Tokyo to find Miko and resolve the disastrous ending of their love affair. Layer by layer, Olafsson (The Sacrament) fleshes out their beautiful, doomed story, which is tied to the lasting effects of Hiroshima. Kristófer’s quest has the triple-threat urgency of his memory challenges, the suffocating complications of COVID protocols, and the drive to answer the mystery of Miko’s sudden disappearance from his life, which nearly crushed him.
VERDICT Olafsson’s treatment of the vast cultural chasm between Icelander Kristófer, and Miko, shaped by the bombing of Hiroshima shortly before she was born, brings suspense and heartache to the reader.
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