Kjersti A. Skomsvold
First Sentence: I like it when I can be done with something.
This book will turn you inside out:
I identify with bananas, for not only am I hunched over, I’ve also got a flower without sex organs and fruit without seed, and therefore I am, according to Buddha, meaningless. And I also believe Buddha was on to something where the hopelessness of all earthly endeavors is concerned, because I feel hopeless; I stole from the grocery store, gave Age B. the time, buried a time capsule, baked rolls, turned up the hot plate, tried to plan my own funeral, tried to become a tree, and then the most difficult thing of all – I used the telephone, which was really too much for me – and yet I’m still sitting here in my apartment and I’m just as afraid of living life as I am of dying. And wasn’t it Buddha who also said that everything is suffering, and I think that if I’d been religious, I would’ve been a Buddhist, and If I’d been a fruit, I would’ve been a banana.
This book will destroy you:
I put my groceries on the counter and the boy keeps talking to the girl as he scans them. He picks up the jam and beeps it across, but I don’t have the courage to ask him to open it. He doesn’t tell me how much it costs, but I can see the number on the screen. When I give him my money, I touch the palm of his hand, but he doesn’t notice. I brought a net bag with me, I won’t ask him for one of the grocery bags under the counter or wonder what else he’s keeping down there. I just pack my groceries into my bag and go. And if I was kidnapped five minutes later, and the cops came by and showed him my picture, the boy would say he’d never seen me before in his life.
* * * * *
Last Sentence: I’m under water, and it’s dark and clear.
Last Sentence explained: This is the story of Mathea Martinsen, an elderly lady nearing the end of her life who is utterly alone. It is a heartbreaking, brief account of one woman’s last few days on earth and is profoundly moving. By the end of the book, Mathea is so desolate she decides to give up on life altogether and she walks out into a nearby lake and goes under. This brings us to the final sentence above. She simply cannot face another day:
I’m not afraid of dying anymore, I’m just afraid of dying alone, and I’ve already done that.
Before all this though, there is so much going on in this book, and the writing is magnificent to boot. We see Mathea reminisce about her lover, Epsilon (real name Niels), we see her befriend Age B., a strange man with obvious mental problems who keeps asking people the time. (Mathea’s own soundness of mind is also ambiguous throughout the book.) We can only watch as she buys a different jam jar each time she goes to the supermarket in the hope that she will be able to open it when she gets home, or how she buys sugar in case a neighbour comes looking for some. She feels her greatest achievement in life is being able to start a fresh toilet roll without tearing the first sheet and if all of this doesn’t break your heart, then this might not be the book for you. The title itself is a strange one, but can be best explained by the following passage:
[...] I see the old man with the walker, the one I raced a while back, he’s probably on his way to the get-together too. He looks so lonely walking there, much lonelier than me, and much, much smaller, but that might be because he’s so far away. I catch up to him. If I walk right behind him people will think we’re together. If I’m lucky, the man with the walker will think so too. I almost believe it myself.
All in all this is a magnificent book and one I can wholeheartedly recommend.
Selection of quotes from the book:
“[...] my heart was like a grape, and now it’s like a raisin.”
“When I step outside, I force myself to look up. Nice sun, I think before looking down at the trash blowing around in the gutter.”
“[...] I would’ve liked to approach them, but they talk so loudly and hear so badly, and I talk so softly and am so far away.”