Two former lovers are brought back together ... but can they really trust their pasts? The new novel from the bestselling author of SOPHIE'S WORLD.
Through five intense years in the 1970s, Steinn and Solrunn had a happy life together. Then they suddenly parted ways, for reasons that are unclear to both. In the summer of 2007 they meet again on a balcony of an old wooden hotel by a fjord in western Norway. It is a place they both have fond memories from, and their meeting turns out to be fateful. But is it purely coincidental that they meet at that particular spot at that particular time? Over a couple of weeks that summer they write emails to each other, and it becomes clear that they have been living with very different interpretations of their shared past...
Gaarder's epistolary novel is a broadly drawn exploration of weighty themes. Solrun and Steinn, who had been lovers in their early twenties, reunite thirty years later at the hotel where they had their final weekend together. In their ensuing email correspondence, they discuss issues of spirituality, atheism, creation, the destruction of the planet, their feelings for each other, and confessions about why they parted. The couple had been involved in a hit-and-run accident with an elderly woman. Later, while walking through the woods, consumed by guilt, they see the woman's spirit, which absolves them. This supernatural incident drives the final wedge between them as Solrun embraces her spirituality and Steinn runs into the arms of scientific rationality. The novel treads familiar philosophical grounds while still seeming vaguely plausible as an interaction between estranged lovers. Though Gaardner does do a good job exploring issues of life and death and the origins of the universe through the urgent modern lens of climate change, readers don't learn much about Solrun or Steinn beyond their positions on spirituality and rationality. Gaarder raises good points in his philosophical exercise, but the result reads more like a philosophical treatise than a novel, and he fails to accomplish the basic goals of establishing setting and character.