Received a copy of The Last Days of My Mother by Sölvi Björn Sigurðsson through the First Reads Giveaway program in exchange for an honest review
"She cried over the injustice she had thoughtlessly caused me, inconsolable over mistakes that threw happiness out with the trash. She mourned disposable opportunities and unrecyclable pleasures, a forgotten birthday. When she was haunted by thoughts of all the things she hadn't done, painting lessons, suing the conservatives for treason, it was like all the days of history wouldn't suffice to grieve over what would never be. Life was a wreck no matter how long it was. She had never enjoyed any of it. Existence was a merciless narrow path to damnation and hell. She hated it. She hated existence and all its ruined days more than her own useless bones."
Eva Briem Throrarinsdóttir is a sixty-four year old Icelandic woman of the arts and single mother of one grown child. She is thrifty in nature, effervescent in life, and after living through the tragic resultss of the world wars she has adopted an anti-capitalism, communism, and surveillance disposition. She despises recreational drugs, but loves partaking in alcohol and with the help of her trusty hip flask a moment doesn't go by where she can get a little jump start when things get a little too heavy. When Eva was younger she played the lead role of Nazi nurse Herta Oberhauser on stage in The Iron Lady. Herta killed prisoners with oil and evipen injections initiating Eva's trypanophobia in which she would have to confront later in life. Eva conceived a child after a two week tryst in Italy to a man named Willy, who like a sex-addicted phantom vanished into thin air. The only thing she is left with is a son named Hermann and a commerative fallic statue/toy that she pontificates/uses on the daily. She often ridicules her son's homosexual tendencies with a certain fluctuating measuring scale and disrespects his choice of occupation as a real estate agent. She has recently been diagnosed with a bone cancer called Sarcoma which is commonly found in children and household pets. And for a stubborn intellect like Eva, this diagnosis is a tad bit demoralizing. As you can tell from the above description Eva is a very interesting individual and unlike her penchant for alcohol is probably taken in, in small doses.
Hermann "Trooper" Willyson is a thirty-seven year old man who has recently broken up with his girlfriend of seven years Zola, after a dismal stint in Dublin. In response he has had to tuck tail and move back in with his mother in a small apartment on Spitala Street in Iceland. After the break up Trooper has become depressed, has put on considerable weight, and quit his job in real estate leaving his life devoid of any and all substance. It is quite easy to see that Hermann is at a crossroads in his life. Once Hermann gets the unexpected news of his mother's current condition he may find it easier to die than it would be to live.
"My life floated by and suddenly I was overcome by relief - this was not the end of everything, but a new beginning. Time itself, that mismatched resin of shapeless days and self pity, became an unbroken, unwavering, and crystal clear image before my very eyes. From now on, each day would be a work of art and the brushstrokes governed by this one goal: to make Mother happy during the last days of her life.
I was filled with such exuberance that I laughed out loud, as if nothing had ever pleased me as much as Mother's imminent death."
Eva is willing to accept her fate, but her son makes it a point to find purpose for his life while prolonging his mother's. After extensive online research, Trooper finds an unconventional treatment/hospice centre called Libertas in The Netherlands. After accepting her son's plan, you begin to wonder if Eva's motive is to get healthy or fully-saturate herself into the Amsterdam atmosphere. In a moderately-sadistic sort of way I was anxious to read this book. I knew I was going to be sad at times while I contemplated my mother's own death and that whole decision-making process of pulling the proverbial plug. I knew I was most likely going to shed a tear or two as I ended the last sentence. What I wasn't prepared for was the drunkenness, contentious ideologies,nazi-balls, museums of torture and red light district satiations. What I was able to take away from this book was that as much as people want to love and be loved, in the end the value of past relationships and the positive effects in developing new friendships is what truly matters.
This novel proved to be quite the arduous read. Not because of the thought of a mother and son traveling to a foreign country to plan her death. Not because their days are spent indulging in alcohol, cigarettes, copeus amounts of drugs and painting the town red. Not because the main protagonists are not the most sympathetic of characters. It was the author's dreamscape style of writing at times where as a reader I had a difficult time deciphering between waking life, hallucinations, and dream. You can definitely see the author's talents as you read the passages and begin to understand his background in poetry. With a little fine-tuning, experience and polish I believe this author will be one to keep an eye on.
" 'I've often wondered how much more fun it would have been if I'd had you with a black man, Trooper.'
'Yes. It would have been such a nice contribution to the diversity of the population to have you a bit tinted.'
'Ah. But would I have been me then?'
'As if you would have noticed? You wouldn't have given it any thought, just like you don't currently think about what it would have been like to be colored. That's the problem with having just the one life. I'll never really know what it's like to be Catherine Deneuve.' "