Thursday, December 19, 2013

Review of You Disappear by Christian Jungersen

You Disappear by Danish author Christian Jungersen is interesting.  And I mean that as a compliment.

I'd never heard of the author so I did a quick online search.  You Disappear is his third book, a bestseller in Denmark and both won and was nominated for numerous awards.

The basic story is anything but simple.  Mia's husband Frederik is an esteemed and even loved headmaster of a local school.  He's also a workaholic and womanizer who mostly leaves her and their son, Nicolas, much of the time.  Three years before the story starts he begins to change positively, coming home earlier and spending more time with his family.  Mia begins to believe that she finally has the marriage of her dreams.

Until he's diagnosed with a brain tumor.  And a massive fraud he perpetrated is uncovered in which he bet the school's entire financial net worth in market trades and lost it all.  Liability attaches both to him and Mia as well as many of the board members, their friends.  The school's future is at risk.  Mia is left wondering when she ever really knew her husband and whether the upswing in their marriage was tumor induced as his behavior changed neurologically and not because of her.

Mia must now struggle with losing everything, a mentally unstable husband and a hostile community.  Will Frederik go to jail?  Will he get better?  Can she cope?

That the book is written from a woman's perspective by a man is nothing new.  Jungersen really does pull it off but I think perhaps in part because Mia takes an analytical and logical approach (when she can) to the crisis.  Joining a support group and actively researching mental and brain issues, including damage and illness, Mia learns and rationalizes.  But Jungersen is skilled enough to add nuance and variety to her coping and thoughts.

I'm not sure how I would handle my life falling apart in such a manner.  In this book we meet a number of people dealing with like crises.  And it's hard to read at times.  Jungersen weaves articles and the like about the brain, theory, research and more into the narrative and the information works, adding context.

Great book.  Nuanced and thoughtful, it also really held my attention beginning to end.  Sometimes the hardest writing is of exactly this sort - where we drop into someone's everyday world as they try to hold it together.

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