looking back

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Doris Alm has lived a long and eventful life, from a poor childhood in Sweden, to modeling in Paris, to being a maid and companion to a frustrated artist. Doris has loved, and lost, and would probably agree with Tennyson that that's better than the alternative. But now she is concerned that when she dies, everything that has made up her life will die with her. So she determines to write about the people she knew and the things she did. She uses the red address book that her father gave her as a young girl as a prompt, as she looks through the pages and sees that nearly all of the names are crossed out and have the notation, "dead" written beside them. The story alternates between these reflections and her current life, home-bound, with her only connection to the outside world being the aides who come in to help her each day and her weekly Skype sessions with her only family, her great-niece Jenny who lives in San Francisco.

This story is lovely, heartbreaking, tragic, and hopeful, all at the same time. The writing is evocative, both the past and present sections, and beautifully translated by Alice Menzies. Although it's slow to get into, Doris's story will sweep the reader along after the first few (short) sections.