Derek B. Miller‘s debut novel, Norwegian by Night, is about aging snipers. Or, it’s about parenting and loss. Or, the lingering traces of the Korean and Vietnam Wars. It feels about as full as life itself, and almost as real.
Through shifting perspectives, Norwegian tells the tale of 82-year-old Sheldon Horowitz. After finding himself widowed and possibly suffering from dementia, Sheldon leaves New York to join his granddaughter in Norway. When the young boy from upstairs witnesses his mother’s politically-motivated murder while hiding in Sheldon’s closet, the 2 run away before the boy can be hurt, too.
Overlaying the dark drama of it all is Sheldon’s Jewishness. While recalling trying to take his deceased son golfing at a country club or settling into a country that finds Jews, as one character puts it, “unsettling,” Sheldon waxes philosophical on everything from the rules of kashrut to Europe’s dearth of Jews post-WWII. It remains unclear if we should trust Sheldon and his experience—his dementia and lucidity are continually up for debate—but his points are salient, his struggles are arresting, and the stakes are unforgettably high.