The Color of Grief is a sensational debut novel by Norwegian Susanne Skogstad (b. 1992).
The book’s protagonist and narrator is an elderly woman whose husband recently passed away. Her grief is so profound that is has virtually paralyzed her: “I cannot move forward, I can only sit here and look back, for in the future there is no you.”
She thinks back on their years together, recalling his lightness and joyfulness: it was he who drew her out of her emotional darkness, who provided comfort and support when the three children demanded too much, or when the panic attacks debilitated her. “What do I have to gain from the future? It is enough of a challenge to wake up every morning. To wake up and realize that I am drowning on the open sea. That there is no horizon in sight. That I am alone. And that no one will ever come.”
Those who do come, nevertheless, and intrude upon her loneliness, her memories and her grief, are the three adult children. The oldest son, Jon, almost always in a suit, smartphone in hand; the mild Solveig; and Jakob, the youngest. It is Jon, above all, who gets involved and struggles to ease the paralysis that has gripped his mother. He ultimately fails, but it brings them closer together.
In pared-down and poetic prose, the young Susanne Skogstad juxtaposes the deep love and tenderness of the past with the deep loss and sorrow of the present, and brilliantly conveys the older woman’s perspective in this exploration of companionship, loneliness and the desire to belong.
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