Longlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, A Blessed Child had me for the first 100 pages and then it just sort of teetered off from there. The reader doesn’t actually find out why the three sisters, Erika, Laura, and Molly, stop visiting Hammarsö, a tiny island in the Baltic Sea, when Erika was 14 until around page 218, and even then the story refuses to confront the problem, choosing instead to continue with the flashbacks.
The story begins, though, with the eldest daughter, Erika, traveling to Hammarsö to visit her aging father, Isak. Isak has been married twice, has three daughters by three different women, and has had several mistresses, so I originally contributed the strain in their relationship to Isak’s womanizing ways. However, it becomes clearer as the story progresses and the flashbacks begin that there is a bigger force at work. Erika later attempts to cajole her middle sister, Laura, into joining her, and the story switches to Laura’s flashbacks — with a few repeats — as Laura decides whether or not to visit the old man. She in turn then attempts to get the youngest sister, Molly, to tag along with her, and the flashbacks continue.
All of this leads up to real secret, but don’t expect closure when it’s reveled. The secret is slipped in, gets under your skin, and is never mentioned again.
Ullman’s writing contains some lovely descriptions and phrase, but as darkness seeps in this beauty is lost. I felt pretty cold when I finished A Blessed Child, not to mention unfulfilled. There’s no resolution; the meandering just continues.
- Ullmann, Linn. A Blessed Child. Trans. Sarah Death. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008. Print. 307 pgs. ISBN: 9780307265470. Source: Library.