Friday, February 16, 2018
Published January 2018 by Melville House
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review
When Tom’s heavily pregnant girlfriend Karin is rushed to the hospital, doctors are able to save the baby. But they are helpless to save Karin from what turns out to be acute Leukemia. And in a cruel, fleeting moment Tom gains a daughter but loses his soul-mate. In Every Moment We Are Alive is the story of the year that changes everything, as Tom must reconcile the fury and pain of loss with the overwhelming responsibility of raising his daughter, Livia, alone.
Tom Malmquist is a poet which becomes immediately apparent. There is not a word wasted nor does Malmquist waste any time in pulling readers into the pain that is to become Tom's life. From the moment the consultant stamps down the wheel lock of Karin's hospital bed in the opening sentence to the moment he leaves his daughter off a preschool alone for the first time, Malmquist makes readers feel every moment of the balancing act that Tom's life becomes in a moment.
Because the book is more memoir than work of fiction, the pain feels so much more palpable. It's hard to read the vivid details of Karin's rapid decline, the agony of her parents who are kept, inexplicably, away from her deathbed, the mad pinball existence Tom lives as he watches his wife die and his premature daughter grow, and the terror he feels knowing he will be left to raise her on his own. But all of that is not where his sorrow ends because, just months after Karin dies, Tom must deal with the death of his father, a man he has had a complicated relationship with all of his life.
Although the book is only 240 pages long, so much is packed into it, and it is so intense, that it feels like a much longer book. But it is not just all of that pain that makes it read that way, it is also the style of Malmquist's writing. The book moves back and forth in time, allowing readers to visit Karin and Tom as they meet and become a couple. But that can be extremely jarring at times as it usually happens without a break in the writing. Also, be forewarned, those of you who must have quotation marks in your books, there are none here. Not only that but whole conversations are often lumped into a single paragraph. I often found myself re-reading passages to make sure I understood who was talking.
When the book moved into Tom's relationship with his father and his father's death, the back and forth in time became even more complicated and hard to follow. For me, it also overwhelmed the story, although, it retrospect, it seems it was important to understand Tom's relationship with his father to understand his fears about being a father himself.
The longer I've blogged, the less often I find myself taking chances on books, which is a shame. Because without doing that, I would not have discovered this book. Despite it being a tough read, it's a book I'm very glad to have read.
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Tom Malmquist is a poet and sportswriter. He has written two highly acclaimed poetry collections. In Every Moment We Are Still Alive is his first novel. He lives in Sweden.