Dalkey Archive has another stunner in this debut novel by Kjersti A. Skomsvold.
Our lonely, elderly narrator has measured her life, if she has truly marked off the passage of time at all, in knit earwarmers and an insistent though compelling lifelong conjuration from her husband of one statistic after another. As she sits overlooking the edge of her own mortality she gazes back into the spare vacuum of her life to see what filled all those spaces kept barren of friends, family, pursuits, and so on.
There’s an implicit sadness over the wasted life here, woven through the artfully pseudo-simplistic and good-natured inner thoughts of Mathea as she reflects on the husband she loved nearly as much as he seemed confounded by and sad for her, the dog that drowned after she threw its treat into a lake, and the child that never came.
The entire book is stoically infused with the tremendous weight of a lifetime of empty but hopeful days, and all of the loneliness that has come as Mathea approaches death, flailing out in her final days for some bit of meaning or legacy in a world that seems content to wholly forget her as she meanders about in her wedding dress, wielding a sandwich bag of teeth.
The reader is left to decide if she has succeeded or not in this sort-of adventure that is as bizarre as it is banal with a most disarming, persistent undercurrent of an unromantic loneliness and desperation; this is a rich, literary death rattle worth listening to.