‘Anne’s diagnosis of terminal cancer shines a spotlight onto fractured relationships with her daughter and granddaughter, with surprising, heartwarming results.‘
– One Last Time
[ About the Book ]
Anne’s life is rushing to an unexpected and untimely end. But her diagnosis of terminal cancer isn’t just a shock for her – and for her daughter Sigrid and granddaughter Mia – it shines a spotlight onto their fractured and uncomfortable relationships.
On a spur-of-the moment trip to France the three generations of women reveal harboured secrets, long-held frustrations and suppressed desires, and learn humbling and heart-warming lessons about how life should be lived when death is so close.
With all of Helga Flatland’s trademark humour, razor-sharp wit and deep empathy, One Last Time examines the great dramas that can be found in ordinary lives, asks the questions that matter to us all – and ultimately celebrates the resilience of the human spirit, in an exquisite, enchantingly beautiful novel that urges us to treasure and rethink … everything.
[ My Review ]
One Last Time by Helga Flatland, translated by Rosie Hedger, was published with Orenda Books June 24th in paperback original (digital format April 24th) and is described as ‘a moving, elegant and warmly funny novel by the Norwegian Anne Tyler.‘ This is Helga Flatland’s latest novel to be translated into English, following the success of A Modern Family, her English debut.
In my review in June 2019 of A Modern Family I referred to Karen Sullivan of Orenda Books who continuously introduces her readers to a vast selection of literature, including many translated works, taking us on some very unexpected journeys across the globe. One Last Time is no different taking the reader on a special journey of the heart via Norway with a family who are about to go on their own very personal journey through complex relationships and impending grief.
Anne has lived through a very challenging number of decades. In the very early years of her marriage to Gustav, he suffered from a number of strokes, leaving Anne as his carer. With two young children, Sigrid and Magnus, Anne was stretched as she tried to be wife, carer and mother. In the eyes of Sigrid, Anne was never there for them, leaving them to very much get on by themselves. Magnus did his best by Sigrid but she always felt the emptiness in her life of a parental presence and, over the years, she came to resent Anne for her absence as a mother figure in her life. Sigrid rebelled against her parents but eventually she did knuckle down, studying medicine and qualifying as a GP.
Sigrid now has a daughter, Mia, nineteen years old, who is dealing with her own challenges. The relationship between mother and daughter is fractured with Mia frustrated with how her parents, and step-father communicate. Sigrid is doing her best to cope with her complicated life situation but a call from Anne changes everything.
Anne has received the worst news ever. She has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Now living on her own, she is fearful of the road ahead. Gustav is, at this stage in their lives, being professionally cared for in a nursing home. He no longer recognises Anne but her daily visits and chats to him are a staple in her life. Now Anne must face the possibility that she will be gone before him, leaving him behind.
Sigrid is very unprepared for this traumatic news. As a GP she deals with illness every day of the week but now it is her mother and she isn’t ready for the emotional rollercoaster that is ahead of her. She looks back over their relationship and is unable to make sense of the role now expected of her. Is she a daughter, a carer or a doctor?
One Last Time looks closely at the family dynamics and how roles change over the years with the changing seasons. Unfortunately we will all experience the loss of someone close to us and the sense of hopelessness is so very real. We look back over our personal relationship with that person and wonder did we do enough. In Sigrid and Anne’s case they had so many lost years and now with time running out, how will they manage? What will they do?
For all the obvious reasons, One Last Time is a very emotive story that will pull at the heartstrings of every reader. We get one life and it is very important that we consider, when we have a choice, how we live it. Someone once said to me after she buried her father that she had no regrets and these wise words have always stayed with me. One Last Time highlighted again the importance of these two words. We live. We die. The important bit in the middle is down to us…..
[ Bio ]
Helga Flatland is one of Norway’s most awarded and widely read authors. Born in Telemark, Norway, in 1984, she made her literary debut in 2010 with the novel Stay If You Can, Leave If You Must, for which she was awarded the Tarjei Vesaas’ First Book Prize. She has written four novels and a children’s book and has won several other literary awards. Her fifth novel, A Modern Family, was published to wide acclaim in Norway in August 2017, and was a number-one bestseller. The rights have subsequently been sold across Europe and the novel has sold more than 100,000 copies.
A Modern Family marked Helga’s first English publication when it was released in 2019, achieving exceptional critical acclaim and sales, and leading to Helga being dubbed the ‘Norwegian Anne Tyler’. One Last Time is her second book to be translated into English (by Rosie Hedger), and published in 2021.
Twitter – @HelgaFlatland