Gloria Feit's Reviews > The Boy in the Suitcase

The Boy in the Suitcase by Lene Kaaberbøl
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Apr 03, 12

Read on April 03, 2012

The authors met at a Master Class, Ms. Kaaberbol the teacher and Ms. Friis the student, and the relationship developed into the two collaborating on one of many relatively recent Scandinavian novels which have become a sensation in the US and around the world. With good reason.

As the book opens, a young woman, Karin Kongsted, opens a locker at the Central Station on instructions from her employer, and pulls out the suitcase which had been placed therein. When she opens it she finds inside it a small boy ‘folded like a shirt’ and barely alive. And while the reader might guess what’s in store, the authors have many surprises in the tale that unfolds from this shocking opening.

After a disorienting start, in which this reader felt a bit like a pinball pinging from one side to another as the first five chapters introduce three different characters, that feeling fades as each is quite soon tied to the others, though they are at first strangers to one another, and are transported to Poland, Denmark, and Lithuania. We meet Nina Borg, nurse, wife and mother of two, a woman given to frequently checking the time for no apparent reason, who had worked in various parts of the world with a network dedicated to saving illegal immigrants from those “who circled like sharks, waiting to exploit the desperation of the refugees and take their chunk of the vulnerable flesh.” Karin calls Nina, a friend for fifteen years although they had been estranged for the last several, and pleads with her to help, saying “You’re always so keen on saving people, aren’t you? Well, here’s your chance.”

Ms. Kaaberbol did the imperfect but still very good translation from the Danish. The novel is the first in the award-winning Nina Borg series, and the first to be published in the US. [The authors are presently writing the third book in the series.] It is a dark, but riveting book. I read it over a two-day period, not expecting to finish it on the second day I opened it, then discovering, several hours later, that I had done just that. The novel is highly recommended.
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