Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Mirror Shoulder Signal

Mirror Shoulder Signal / Dorthe Nors
trans. from the Danish by Misha Hoekstra
Minneapolis, MN: Graywolf Press, c2018.
188 p.
This book has been on my tbr since I saw someone mention it last August. It was worth finally picking it up; I enjoyed Nors' sensibility and this story of Sonja, a middle aged woman who is trying to learn to drive. 

That's the premise of this book but it encompasses a lot more which sort of circles out from this desire of Sonja's to be able to drive. Her thoughts about driving are thoughts about her own view of herself, and her past, and her connections to others. 

Sonja is a translator, kept busy translating the work of a Swedish crime writer. She's now living in Copenhagen, but grew up in Jutland (a sneered at region) and can't stop thinking about the landscapes and the place she grew up in. Her sister, who still lives there, seems to be avoiding her calls; Sonja has changed so that even while she longs for the past, she can never go back. 

She also suffers from hereditary vertigo, although her massage therapist thinks it must all be emotional, something she's repressing. I enjoyed the complex variety of the characters, from the flakier massage therapist to Sonja's solitary nature to the extremely talkative and coarse Jutta, Sonja's first driving instructor, each is a rounded individual. 

Sonja is obsessed with fears of failure, of making the wrong choices, of being left alone in her life. She feels that she's lost direction and just wants to see her life from a better vantage point. Her quest for a drivers licence puts her in contact with more of the city and more characters and takes her on an internal journey that reflects her desire for freedom of movement in the outer world. 

I enjoyed the matter of fact narrative style, all from Sonja's point of view though not in first person. It's descriptive, with a subdued sense of humour and irony, and distances itself from sentimentalism even in the more emotionally difficult moments. While I found the ending a bit vague and inconclusive it made sense in light of earlier moments in the story. Definitely one I found thoughtful and enjoyable to read. 


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