The Facades by Eric Lundgren

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The Facades by Eric Lundgren

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: On the surface, the story of a husband's search for his wife in mid-west USA. It's billed as existentialism but it's also a ripping good read.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272 Date: January 2014
Publisher: Gerald Duckworth & Co Ltd
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0715647677

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Sven and Molly Norberg live in the American mid-western town of Trude. At least Sven still does; Molly has gone missing. Night after night Sven leaves Kyle, his teenage son, home alone while he scours the streets, revisiting places that he and Molly wandered through together in order to find her. Meanwhile Trude has problems of its own and the librarians are armed and ready!

I begin with a plea: please don't let the reviews for this debut novel put you off. They agree it's a good book but they also use words like 'existentialist' (had to look that one up), comparing American author Eric Lundgren to Italo Calvino (I 'Googled' him) and Haruki Murakami (him too, I'm ashamed to say). I am here to tell you that it doesn't matter if you (like me) have the philosophical mind or foreign literature knowledge of a fish finger this is still an excellent novel.

As we follow Sven we see through his eyes. Gradually we learn about his missing opera-singer wife as he tells us about their life, where they met and how their relationship developed. We feel his wistfulness and pain intensely. It seems that he's spent his life trying to do the right thing but something always goes wrong. For instance, fearing Kyle will have a lonely birthday party, Sven recruits a party guest from a local bus stop with major knock-on effects later. We also start to wonder if, seeing through Sven's eyes means we may be missing something other than Mrs N.

For me the most poignant element of the novel is Sven's relationship with Kyle. This story may be about change and loss, but throughout Sven is attempting to coat Kyle in aspic, confining him to an optimum past era whereas the lad wants to be noticed and appreciated for what he is now.

It's not all gloom; our emotions are ambushed by moments of unexpected laughter. As examples I suggest the speech of Rev Lilly, the evangelically sect-ish pastor or Eric's description of the local librarians.

Indeed, the librarians are one of the factors providing us with the suspicion that Trude isn't a town of our experience. In order to defend their buildings and livelihoods from local government cuts, the librarians assume terrorist status. Please don't try this at home Librarians although please feel free to cheer them on; I did! (It won't surprise you to hear that Eric is actually a librarian.)

Not all the deeper meanings are buried beneath the surface. The author paints a fascinating word picture of Pastor Lilly. He seeks to disciple Kyle while not majoring in shepherding a flock; his main goal for his church is to build three giant crosses outside. He demands his congregants to destroy all signs of Mammon idolatry while setting himself up as a replacement idol. Then there's the town's architect who maintains that the only perfect building is an empty one. Looking at Lilly I can see his point!

Ok, I still find the doppelganger moment at the opera a bit puzzling, but by the end of Sven's journey we understand a lot more about him, the biggest clue to his character being on someone else's gravestone at the end.

Those better versed in the more intellectual side of the book may well glean more but for the rest of us this is still an intriguing, original novel with the power to leave us in a contented mulling mode.

I'd like to thank Gerald Duckworth & Co for providing us with a copy for review.

Further Reading: If this appeals and you enjoy stories that are accessible while making you think a little, we also thoroughly recommend Communion Town by Sam Thompson.

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Buy The Facades by Eric Lundgren at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Facades by Eric Lundgren at


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