Anne’s diagnosis of terminal cancer shines a spotlight onto fractured relationships with her daughter and granddaughter, with surprising, heartwarming results. A moving, warmly funny novel by the Norwegian Anne Tyler.
Anne’s life is rushing to an unexpected and untimely end. But her diagnosis of terminal cancer isn’t just a shock for her – and for her daughter Sigrid and granddaughter Mia – it shines a spotlight onto their fractured and uncomfortable relationships.
On a spur-of-the moment trip to France the three generations of women reveal harboured secrets, long-held frustrations and suppressed desires, and learn humbling and heartwarming lessons about how life should be lived when death is so close.
With all of Helga Flatland’s trademark humour, razor-sharp wit and deep empathy, One Last Time examines the great dramas that can be found in ordinary lives, asks the questions that matter to us all – and ultimately celebrates the resilience of the human spirit, in an exquisite, enchantingly beautiful novel that us to treasure and rethink … everything.
Hi and welcome to my review of One Last Time and happy e-publication day to Helga Flatland and Rosie Hedger!
Two years ago, Orenda Books introduced me to Helga Flatland through A Modern Family. For me, it confirmed that contemporary fiction is in fact a genre that I can enjoy – or in any case I seem to do so when it’s contemporary fiction from Orenda Books. I had been looking forward to reading more by Helga Flatland for quite a while, so when One Last Time landed on my doorstep I dove in as soon I could.
Helga Flatland has such a beautiful, engaging writing style, expertly translated by Rosie Hedger, that never fails to draw me in. Are there five thrills a minute and loads of suspense to be had between the pages of One Last Time? No, not at all. Is that something this literary adrenaline junkie missed? No, not at all. The writing, the setting, the characters and their relationships, they were more than enough to keep me captivated and eager for more.
One Last Time tells the story of three women, three generations: Anne, her daughter Sigrid and Sigrid’s daughter Mia, with the POV alternating between Anne and Sigrid. Like many mother-daughter relationships, theirs is not an easy one. Sigrid maintains that Anne is a much better grandmother than she ever was a mother, because being a grandma is much less hard work and much more rewarding. She feels her mum was never there for her as much as she needed her to be, and she may have a point but Anne had her hands full with her ill husband, and she never even wanted kids to begin with (although telling your teenage daughter that might be a bit of a faux pas). Now Anne has cancer and the hopes of her making a full recovery are soon shattered. With the clock ticking, both Sigrid and Anne realise they have to sort things out before the window closes.
It’s not an easy transition. Habits cultivated for a whole lifetime don’t change overnight nor without any effort. I found myself begging Sigrid to show her mum at least some of that whirlwind of emotions she feels on the inside, to not switch to cool doctor mode but to tell her mum what she really thinks and feels. But I do get it, I have more in common with Sigrid than I’d like to, sometimes it’s difficult to let yourself be vulnerable, even with, or especially with, the people you care about most and you’re about to lose. Helga Flatland well and truly struck a nerve with me there.
One Last Time is a gripping drama that, despite its theme, never drags its reader down. It is written with such empathy, such love and laced with humour to chase away the shadows. From the very down-to-earth start to the simultaneously heart-breaking and heart-warming finale, One Last Time is an absolutely gorgeous piece of prose. Recommended.
One Last Time is out now in digital formats and will be out in paperback next month. (Pre)order it directly from Orenda Books here.
Huge thanks to Orenda Books for the gorgeous proof! All opinions are still my own.