Hi and welcome to FromBelgiumWithBookLove where it is my absolute pleasure to share with you an excerpt from One Last Time! Check out my review here if you missed it the first time around, but the long and short of it is that I found One Last Time is an absolutely gorgeous piece of prose, a gripping drama written with empathy, love and humour.
Many thanks to Anne Cater for having me on the tour, and to Orenda Books for the excerpt.
Let’s have a quick look at the blurb first:
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.
Ready? Okay, grab you bags, we’re going to Norway!
I’ve been practising my conversation with Sigrid. I’ve revealed my cancer diagnosis to Kant in at least ten different ways over the past few days. It doesn’t make things any easier, I’m still dreading it just as much as I ever was, don’t know how to express myself in such a way that I get across the fact that I don’t expect anything of her. You don’t need to come home, obviously, I’ve told Kant, but I’ve immediately regretted uttering the words.
I’ve also apologised during my conversations with him, some-thing I know I won’t manage with Sigrid. I know that she feels I owe her an apology for her whole childhood, as if I’ve damaged her, damaged the foundations for another life, different choices. It feels so unreasonable that I struggle to think about it rationally. Whenever I speak to her, I feel overwhelmed by the accusations that lie quivering beneath the surface, barely concealed, expressed only through half-finished sentences I’m supposed to comprehend without hearing in full, through self-pitying sighs and long-drawn-out pauses; I picture the expression she always wears when Magnus or I, or anyone else for that matter, mentions something with the potential to remind her of her childhood, a knowing, long-suffering look. I dig my nails into the palms of my hands during conversations of that nature, they leave marks in the skin. I feel certain that Sigrid’s memories of her upbringing grow more painful and terrible every time that I fail to apologise, but I’ve realised that it’s useless to try to dispute her memory of events, or to integrate them with my own, at any rate.
Never any waterproofs, Sigrid said four years ago, I spent every rainy day at primary school wet through, she continued. She and I were sitting in the kitchen, Aslak and Viljar had gone to bed, and Sigrid had mooched around restlessly all evening, waiting for an opportunity, as I later realised; we were discussing the teaching of New Norwegian in schools, as far as I can recall, or at least we were until she suddenly came out with all that about waterproofs. It wasn’t true, of course, I’m sure I nagged her about wearing her waterproofs on many a rainy day, but even as I grasped what she was trying to say, a familiar defence mechanism flared up within me, I shook my head, my pulse thudding in my temples. I don’t need this, Sigrid, I said. I was so cold, freezing all through primary school, do you know what it was like sitting through a whole day in class with wet socks, ice cold, not daring to take them off for fear that someone might see? She looked as if she were about to burst into tears. See what? I shouted. She stared back at me. See what? I repeated, calmer this time, not waiting to hear her reply. Honestly, Sigrid, you more than anyone saw what looking after Gustav involved, how much I’ve sacrificed. If you spent a few days with wet socks at primary school, obviously I’m sorry about that, but you’re hardly the true victim in all this, I told her in as measured a tone as I could muster. She said nothing, waited a few seconds before getting up and leaving. I woke that night and remembered at least one occasion when Sigrid had been at high school and I had urged her to wear her boots, she had flown into a rage with me, stormed out the door and into the icy rain in her trainers and denim jacket.
Ah, mother-daughter relationships, they’re a big theme in this book, very relatable, and of course you’ll need to know more! Not a problem at all: you can order your digital or paperback copy right here, and finish June very jubilantly indeed!