Per Petterson, a prize-winning Norwegian author, writes some of the region's finest literary fiction. He homes in on the essence of his characters, revealing at once their inner vulnerabilities and their public bravado.
Per Petterson's It's Fine by Me is a haunting coming-of-age story, stripped down to its essentials. Audun Sletten was only thirteen when his mother relocated her three children from the country to a working-class neighborhood of Oslo. Starting on day one at his new school, Audun set himself apart; a childhood spent with a mean drunk of a father dissolved his trust, and he's just fine on his own, reading books and dreaming of being a writer.
Over the ensuing five years, Audun finds little happiness. Tragedy, money troubles, and a growing distance between him and his family, has left the teen unsure of his direction. When events from his past begin to collide with the present, he finally takes action, hoping for both independence and peace.
In many ways, Audun is a typical teenager, caught in limbo between childhood and adulthood. He's essentially a good kid, but his lingering anger at his father and deeply buried sadness sometimes get the better of him, causing him to act out. Audun is such a realistic character, it's easy to become invested in his story.
I'm not quite sure what I can add to the conversation about Per Petterson. Perhaps my experience with It's Fine by Me can be summed up by Audun's reaction after reading a passage from a friend's book:
. . . I read the page, and the next; it's pure, concise writing about things that you walk around turning over in your mind. I have to have this book, there is something different here, open, bold. (p. 34)And indeed, Petterson writes about ordinary people in everyday situations. But his perspective makes it new and his strong characterizations makes it personal. Audun Sletten with remain in your thoughts long after you've finished his story. I hope he finds the future he deserves.
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Published by Graywolf Press, 2012 (translated by Don Bartlett)
Source: Review (see review policy)
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