Per Petterson’s masterful American debut novel is the story of a man whose life stands still after a terrible accident. Spanning an intense period of only a few weeks, In the Wake
features 43 year-old Arvid, a writer who lost his parents and younger brothers in a ferry accident some years before. It is especially against his repressed memories--of his father and mother, and of his still-living brother--that Arvid must regard and define his own life.
As Arvid struggles with memories, existential questions, and a deep sense of the world’s injustice, he remains overwhelmed by grief, and guilt at having survived. Work on his novel stalls as he moves through life in a cold haze. But while Arvid’s only human contact is with his Kurdish neighbor and with a woman whom he glimpses in a flat across the road, it is this routine contact that begins to slowly remind him of the world---of the beauty and humor we can find in the mundane. As he is reminded, his memories begin to return, and he begins to write again.
Poignant, restrained, darkly funny, and at times unbearably moving, In the Wake takes on terrible tragedy as one man begins to reconnect with the natural world--at times our only source of solace when we’ve been left to survive in the wake.