Prompted by his drug addiction and latest dismissal to relocate to 2015 Sweden, creative-writing instructor Jonas Anderson volunteers to teach Swedish to Middle Eastern refugees, including one who challenges his views about making a difference.
With intelligent probing, sinuous prose, and considerable charm, this Bildungsroman charts his journey, an interior trip to the core of being a compassionate human in the twenty-first century ... Scenes read like meticulous journal entries as Jonas both records his urge to help and questions his own motives and capacity, unsparing when his attempts fall short. This artful realism lends his account an appealingly honest intimacy and immediacy as the quotidian is scrupulously examined ... despite the lack of dramatic conclusions, the stakes feel high as Jonas, unbuffered by oxycodone or ironic quotation marks, opens himself to heartbreak, decides some things, and finds his life.
The novel answers its primary question, 'Is doing good even possible?', with significant emotional honesty, and Lichtman’s clear and accessible writing allows readers to explore its complex topics at many levels. Jonas is a bundle of shifting emotions, needs, and coping mechanisms, and rather than doing good, easing the discomfort of being human is at times all he can manage.