Wednesday, March 31, 2004

April Witch

Some people write books the same way a carpenter builds a house, slowly word by word. Others write book the same way a sculptor carves a face out of clay, scraping away every useless word that is not needed. Some write books like an artist, using words as paint and brushing the story colorfully across the pages. Others write books like a musician, creating a rhythm with words that weaves thought the story like a easily hum melody. Some people write books that are just a hell of a good story. If you find a book that has either one of these things you are in for a good read. If you find one that has all of them you are in for a great read. April Witch by Majgull Axelsson is a great read.

The best way to tell you what the story is about is by quoting the book description from the book jacket end flaps:

" 'No excuses will do anymore. Time to put my sisters in motion.'

Desiree lies in a hospital bed thinking, dreaming. One of the children born severely disabled in 1950s Sweden and then routinely institutionalized for life and one of a very few to survive nearly to the century's endshe cannot walk or talk, but she has other capabilities. Desiree is an April witch, clairvoyant and omniscient, leaving her own body and traveling into the world denied her.

The working-class woman who gave Desiree up at birth took in three foster daughters several years later, and even as adults they know nothing of the existence of their fourth sister. Christina, abused by her psychotic birth mother and burdened by a sense of inferiority, is now a physician; Margareta, the onetime foundling, an astrophysicist who can never manage to complete her dissertation, is as restless and sensual as she was in her youth; and Birgitta, in her day the fastest, sexiest teen queen in town, is now a derelict alcoholic and substance abuser.

In spite of her physical disabilities, Desiree possesses tremendous intelligence, and she observes the world around her with great acumen. She has developed a very special relationship with her primary care physician, Dr. Hubertsson, who realizes that she could and should know something about her own background. Unbeknownst to him, she goes on to make supernatural use of this information.

Sensing that her own time is drawing to a close, Desiree also feels that one of the others has lived the life that should have been hers. One day, each of the three women Christina, Margareta, Birgitta receives a mysterious letter that inspires her to examine her past and her present, setting into motion a complex fugue of memory, regret, and confrontation that builds to a shattering climax.

April Witch created a furor upon its original publication in Sweden, where it was an immense bestseller. Addressing themes of mother-daughter relationships, competition between women, and the failures of Sweden's postwar welfare state, it is foremost a thrillingly written and fascinating story. "

The other theme not mentioned is the illusion that we have total control over our lives. In each case the sisters learn early that this is not true and react in fear to this, each in different ways. One struggles against that lack of control. One creates a life that from the outside looks perfect and under her complete control. Another by traveling, never staying long in one place. The last by giving in to the fear and living a life of absolute chaos.

This book can be difficult in some ways but the ending sent my soul soaring.

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