Simon’s Family

reviewed by Carol Elde

Simon’s Family, A Novel of Mothers and Sons by Marianne Fredriksson, Ballantine 1300 KS, 1999. 306 pp. $14 paperback.

I am not sure I agree with the title. I have no quibble with Simon’s Family, but mothers and sons seems way too narrowing in the description of this novel. Perhaps you have read Hanna’s Daughters. It was written by the same contemporary Swedish novelist, Marianne Fredriksson and it has also been translated into English.

Another good Scandinavian read, I and my women’s bookclub would concur. The story line takes place in rural Göteborg just before the outbreak of WWII and continues through that incredibly pain-filled war. Simon starts the story as a young and gifted child. Karin and Erik are his parents.

The characters join in a family community that extends beyond blood. Christian and Jewish characters forge supportive alliances that sustain all. This is a novel filled with sociology and psychology to the max. Religion, as played out by the Swedish State Church, takes a back seat to spirituality in a broader sense.

Nature, under currents of human awareness, strivings of persons to develop to individual maturity, and acceptance of death are themes that are created and developed. As a family therapist, I was captivated by the nuances of the familial relationships. There was strength, integrity, creativity, and hope embodied in the characters. If you are looking for a book to capture your imagination, try this one.