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They Will Drown in Their Mothers' Tears

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  3,841 ratings  ·  357 reviews
In the midst of a terrorist attack on a bookstore reading by Göran Loberg, a comic book artist famous for demeaning drawings of the prophet Mohammed, one of the attackers, a young woman, has a sudden premonition that something is wrong, changing the course of history. Two years later, this unnamed woman invites a famous writer to visit her in the criminal psychiatric clini ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published November 5th 2019 by Two Lines Press (first published February 27th 2017)
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Average rating 4.03  · 
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Hannah Greendale
It's thrilling to think of the August Prize (Augustpriset) reaching a wider audience through translation, but this seems like an unlikely novel to garner new fans of Sweden's literary prize.

They Will Drown in Their Mothers' Tears explores an alternate future where "anti-Swedish" (i.e. Muslim) citizens are imprisoned in a ghetto called The Rabbit Yard. Albiet speculative, its extremes are too jagged a pill to swallow. Equally troubling is a lack of distinction between its two narrative voices, t
What a maelstrom of a book!

I was completely captivated by this simultaneously disturbing and poetic story. It tackles the difficult topics of terrorism, fear of immigrants and immigrants' fears, faschism and faith. Anyuru presented these fears in such a relatable way that it was in parts hard to read, because his dystopian outlook felt all too realistic.

The story leaves the reader in uncertainty whether the events told are due to the imagination of the girl who recounts them or if she indeed did
Paul Fulcher
Nov 15, 2019 rated it liked it
I am writing to those of you who won’t believe that what I’m saying can happen in Sweden.  You’ll think I’m lying because you think you’re still Swedish.  

Johannes Anyuru's De kommer att drunkna i sina mödrars tårar won the 2017 August Prize in Sweden, and has now been translated into English by Saskia Vogel as They Will Drown In Their Mothers' Tears, and published by Two Lines Press. The 2016 winner of the same prize was Lina Woolf's De polyglotta älskarna, also rendered into English (as The Po
Dec 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Holy shit you guys. Johannes Anyuru’s They Will Drown In Their Mothers’ Tears was incredible. About a father, and writer, and Muslim who, over a period of time, interviews a young woman in a a forensic mental health facility in Sweden and tries to unpack her role in a violent act that she both participated in and prevented, and whether or not she is a woman with a mind damaged in contemporary back door government torture of possible ISIS affiliated youth, or if she is, at least in part, a child ...more
John Hatley
Jul 15, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This troubling work of fiction may be much closer to the truth than any of us know. The radicalisation of young people and the deadly downward slope into terrorism is still being studied by experts, without definitive results. “They will drown in their mothers’ tears” is another good book by a good Swedish author. It has already been translated into many other languages. If yours is one of them, get a copy and read it!
Martin DH
Jul 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very beautiful and horrific book.

To not spoil to much (can be read on the book's backside); the story feels like a mixture of social-thriller and soft-SciFi as it describes the meeting between a young woman at a criminal mental institute and a man who take notes of her story.
The book switches between flashes of a, possibly made up, dystopic future of a fascistic Sweden and the present where the man contemplates whether that future is real or not.

The language is very fluent and poetic which wou
Ronald Morton
Dec 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It’s been a long while - at least a couple years - since a read a book where I was simply consumed with the crushing need to finish it in a single sitting. I’m older now, and my children don’t know what sleeping in is, so that sort of late night reading alludes me; as such this one took me two sittings, but younger me would have had the drive to see this one through in one mad frantic dash to the finish.

Beginning to end this was exceptional; it crams so many ideas and thoughts and ruminations in
Laurent Franckx
Jul 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's purely coincidental that I read Iain Bank's "Transition" just two weeks before reading this book. In "Transition", a secret organization has found the means to travel between an infinity of universes and to intervene in the parallel universes.
Until halfway the book, I thought this was just a variation on Bank's theme, but this book is infinitely more subtle and sensitive - and with some surprises until the end.
While the book is obviously inspired by one of the big political issues of our ti
The kind of book that makes me want to start stopping strangers on the street to tell them to read it.
Xan Shadowflutter
Jun 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Just finished They Will Drown in Their Mothers' Tears. Some list this as science fiction, because it has an element of time travel to it. But to think of this as SF is to approach the story with the wrong attitude.

It's about a young woman, teenager, who gets herself involved in a terrorist attack in a comic book store -- think Charlie Hebdo -- in Sweden. She's using her phone to stream the attack live, and then inexplicably turns her automatic rifle on her fellow terrorists and kills them.

This book is an excellent story looking at immigrants and their children, religion, Swedish society, Syrian terrorist camps, time travel, radicalization, internment, hate, religion, and more. A little confusing as it jumps between character, place, and time--more so because I read an e-galley with no indications other than content (and my total confusion) that the place/time/narrator had changed. I think this might have been a 5-star read for me if I had had those breaks and not had to read back ...more
Ignatius Vonnegut
"They will drown in their mothers tears - Johannes Anyuru"

This year's first knockout read. Loved Mohsin Hamids "The reluctant fundamentalist", but this is on another level. It has similar aim but adds a light sci-fi to it. It's poetic and political and still manages to be thrilling and personally engaging. It it smartly composed and does Orwell better than himself. It's now in Sweden, but always and everywhere. Don't think I ever read a better book coming from my Sweden. maybe..
Dec 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful and haunting novel.
Aug 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Oh wow
This book is brilliant. I don't know for whom this book is for, I suspect for Muslims in European countries, but I really empathized with that feeling of, "can I ever belong?"

The time travel element is really interesting. I have seen the concept before, but never in this way, especially as to how it relates to torture. But really, the time travel is a metaphor for feeling out of place. "I wasn't just an origin seeking its future on the Western world's screens. I was carrying shards of anot
Jul 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How to describe this book... A poetic sci-fi novel about the current rise of fascism in Northern Europe, with time travel(?) and alternate realities(?), told from a Muslim second generation immigrant perspective. A novel filled with grief, and with an infinite tenderness. Dark and gentle and radiant.

This book shook me so deeply. The breathtaking imagery of Anyuru’s language, which echoes with interttextuality with the past century of Swedish poetry, makes the text soar within me. I read this on
Feb 02, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2020
The best description for this book that comes to mind is a strange yet gripping mindfuck combining dystopia, time travel, terrorism, islamophobia, and more. It's also a rather confusing read, at least in the electronic version I got via Overdrive as the text switches seamlessly from one narrator to another and one timeline to another without indicating this in any way. As the narrative voices aren't particularly distinct either, those shifts are often only noticeable in retrospect. I have no ide ...more
I can see why this book is considered good - it certainly packs a punch when it comes to the Swedish-identity question - but I never got into it and sometimes even had to force myself to continue. There is something about the shifting perspectives that I find jarring, and maybe I’m too unfamiliar with the slang used to get along with the language... but this is all personal taste. The story itself is interesting and emotionally it strikes a chord.
Mrs. Danvers
Dec 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Okay, whoa. That was a very intense and beautiful read. Don't read it if you're looking for something cozy for the holidays. But do read it.
Mar 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
This was good. And weird. I liked it, and maybe you will too.
Cassie (book__gal)
Oct 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book caught me off guard in the best way. I didn’t think it was possible for a fiction novel to elegantly tackle subjects like terrorism, anti-immigrant hysteria, nationalism, dystopia, and religion, but alas, TWDITMT does so. ⁣⁣

A terrorist attack is taking place at a comic book store in Sweden, when suddenly a woman participating in said attack, experiences a dissociation of sorts...something is wrong, she is not herself. Years later, this same woman, now in a criminal psychiatric institu
Rebecca H.
This novel is a work of speculative fiction, looking at terrorism, Islamophobia, and anti-immigrant ideology. It’s set in Sweden and opens with a violent attack on a bookstore hosting an author known for controversial drawings of the prophet Mohammed. One of the attackers turns out to be a visitor from an alternate future. Or at least she believes she is. Over the course of the novel she tells her story to a writer who tries to piece together what actually happened. This writer grapples with his ...more
Joy Clark
Wow. I am dumbstruck after reading this book. I don't want to start a new one yet, I want to bask in my thoughts for a while. This book is beautifully written, thought-provoking, and completely original. It's science fiction, but damn if it isn't a little too realistic. The sci-fi isn't the focus of the book - it's about the nature of hatred, with time travel used merely as a plot device - but it worked so well. The switches in perspective were not marked, which could be jarring at times, but at ...more
Kris Fernandez-Everett
First off, this book is conceived very well. I like the idea of an approximate dystopia — using events that are part of any given reader’s reality and bending them in ways that could logistically occur, even if we think we’re too cultured or nuanced as a society to let that happen. The idea of being uniquely lost in time and in place is ubiquitous, and I enjoyed the envisaging about its ramifications in this novel.

My issues with the book, and what kept me from thinking more of it, were structura
Caroline Pralin Pangolin
God has 99 names and Anyuru is familiar with some of the darker ones; naming the prison camp "al-Mima" after the dead God of space epos "Aniara" by Harry Martinsson is poetic bordering to hysterical. I don't think I'll ever forgive him for that image and I'm deeply grateful for that.
Jenn Locke
Jan 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book gave me everything I could want: a mystery; a family saga; a bit of time travel; a dystopian alternate reality; a touch of complexity to sustain my interest; and all the fear, loneliness, love, and compassion in the world.

Yeah, it’s a lot. Like all the best books are.

This book is set in a Sweden similar to the one we know, but harsher. Written by Johannes Anyuru, who was born to a Swedish mother and an Ugandan-refugee father, the story takes on the ugliness of terrorism and anti-immig
Feb 06, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
Some really beautiful language use here, very emotionally descriptive. Unfortunately, not so physically descriptive so there was some confusion for me as to when point of view shifts happened at first. Once I got a bit into the book though, those because clearer as I got used to the overall pacing.

The first half, which was mostly the girl's story, was wildly fascinating - this is the speculative fiction I am here for. Then the middle got a little bogged down, I felt, with too much present-day re
Glen U
Mar 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
An amazing book that is an exclamation point on the immigrant "problem" in Europe. Specifically Sweden. It is told in novel form (science fiction genre) as it follows a young woman who seemingly comes back from the future and changes the outcome of a terrorist act that would alter the immigrant landscape to a dystopian atmosphere of asylum concentration centers, neural experiments and enforced captivity for Muslims. In "real" life, since the early 2000's, Sweden has experienced riots and conserv ...more
Elin Streiffert
Aug 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: life, recommended
A book about life, and a bit meta.

I wavered a bit when reading. From time to time I did not really understand it, neither the story nor where it wanted to get. But the last chapters made up for all of that. I really liked the ending.

It's an interesting story about a woman who is a part of a suicide squad, and also an author who later decides to interview the woman as she is admitted into an asylum since she says she actually came from the future with a mission, a mission to stop the dystopian s
Dec 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is the most effectively emotionally charged, heart wrenching, heart breaking books I have read in some time! This book left me speechless and breathless and I still lie awake contemplating the ideas presented so eloquently in this book. It deals with ideas if extremism in all its forms from all its ugly sides through exploring themes of memory, identity, culture, ethics and morality and how all of these things are mediated and given certain meaning or attempted to be engineered in certain w ...more
Jun 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
This book grabbed me, but I couldn't tell from the outset where it was going or if I wanted to come along. Luckily the writing/translating is engaging, slightly offbeat and very moody. I was able to get over my initial hesitation and I ultimately enjoyed the book a lot. While I found certain elements of pacing and the way some of the plot points were revealed to be odd/less than ideal, I thought the creativity, characters and frame of the story more than made up for it. The structure of the book ...more
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Johannes Anyuru, born 23 March 1979, is a Swedish poet and author. His father is from Uganda and his mother is Swedish.

News & Interviews

Last year, Buzzfeed culture writer Anne Helen Petersen struck a chord with her viral article “How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation.”...
75 likes · 12 comments
“[..] hennes leende gjorde ansiktet alldeles lysande, som när vinden klistrar ett löv mot fönstret och solen skiner igenom det och alla nerver och ådror syns. Yani, hennes själ syntes. (s. 81)” 1 likes
“I Abu Ghraib, och kanske också i al-Mima, tvingades offret att delta i framställandet av just den bild som gjorde våldet möjligt. Blicken var en nödvändig del av både tortyren och terrorattackerna. Min blick. Jag slöt ögonen, hårt.

Ett krig där blicken, den ömmaste beröring vi förmådde, hade blivit ett vapen.”
More quotes…