ACROS THE CHINA SEA, BY GAUTE HEIVOLL, TRANSLATED BY NADIA CHRISTENSEN
Gaute Heivoll’s newest novel to appear in English tightly examines the nature of family through wonderfully quiet, spare prose. Beginning with the documents certifying the adoption of his five siblings, each of whom struggles with mental health issues, Heivoll’s nameless narrator uses the objects he finds in his deceased parents’ home as a medium to reach out into the textures of the past. As he uncovers item after item, a sense of strangeness begins to permeate them. The narrator can’t remember writing a number of letters he finds addressed to his siblings, and yet in reading them he says that he has “a feeling that the letters were written to me.” Using these objects as a guide, the narrator navigates his past and explores the ambiguities of how family, by blood or by obligation, comes to be. Translated with great lyricism and restraint, Across the China Sea unravels the largeness of history into the tragedies and triumphs of an unconventional family, desperate to hold itself together even as it is tossed about like a bottle at sea.