This winner of the prestigious P. O. Enquist Award in Iceland is here translated into English, unfolding the tale of an Iceland village of only four hundred inhabitants, where life can seem unremarkable. Yet in this remote town, a new road to the city has change on everyone's minds.
... [a] wistful and whimsical novel ... While Stefánsson's observations about heartache, loneliness and yearning can be incisive, his male characters' desires are too often reduced to a wearisome fixation on women's breasts. Generally, however, his writing is fertile, yielding extraordinary imagery ... There are many tears in these stories and in this village, but there is also hope, because even unfulfilled dreams offer guidance, 'they evaporate and settle like dew in the sky, where they transform into the stars in the night.'
Its world appears cemented in a far earlier time until the reader is yanked back to the modern age by delightfully unexpected mentions of Die Hard and other pop culture references ... It must be said that the narrator’s fascination with breasts is at times perplexing and serves no shrewd narrative goal ... Stefánsson’s observational writing soars when he lingers over life’s mundane wonders—a steaming cup of tea, a cloudy sky undulating over a field, lunchmeat, the silence of fish—and his abundant cottagey humor fits the landscape. A supernatural event at the depot rounds out the mysteries of this universe, where even Reykjavik is a distant thought.
Stefánsson is a superb storyteller with a metaphysical bent. He draws characters with empathy and wit, and frames their condition in existential dichotomies: modernity versus the past, mystical versus rational, destiny versus coincidence. A mix of casual and poetic imagery animates the philosophical point.