Anne’s diagnosis of terminal cancer shines a spotlight onto fractured relationships with her daughter and granddaughter, with surprising, heartwarming results. A moving, warmly funny novel by the Norwegian Anne Tyler.
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.
One Last Time by Helga Flatland, is that rarest of books, a story that deals with our mortality, yet does so with warmth and humour, as well as characters that are flawed, real, tangible. Her writing imbuing the story with a real sense of understanding, allowing her characters to become at peace with their own death and that of the family member they love.
For me, it’s how she deals with the variety of reactions to Anne’s diagnosis of terminal cancer, not just hers, but her daughters and her granddaughters, that takes it beyond the normal limits of a readers perception, of how we should approach life and death. We all like to believe that we would consider only the feelings and needs of the person whose life is about to reach it’s end, but if we are honest with ourselves that is far from true. It is the honestly of the story that makes One Last Time special. Anne, Sigrid and granddaughter Mia, each carry their secrets within them, yet they are connected by a bond that is greater than their differences. They pull together, they pull apart, they hurt and are hurt. They carry wounds from the past, which taint their present and it is this, their frailties, that make them characters that have found a place in my heart. They are you, me, your loved ones and their interactions are those we can recognize in our own families.
The story flows gently along, peppered with moments of calm, heartache and yet also humour, because from dark times comes a need to laugh sometimes. We follow these three women, as they struggle to find acceptance about Anne’s diagnosis, while having to keep life for those around them on an even keel. Having lost a family member myself years ago, her writing catches that odd sense of even though your world is crumbling, life just carries on around you and in someway you have to engage with it. Sigrid and Anne, caught up in a range of conflicting emotions, all beautifully written in One Last Time, may want to shout and scream, yet they can’t, so on they go, dealing with others needs and occasionally rebelling. The paradox beautifully caught up in a beautifully crafted story.
One Last Time is one of those novels whose writing is delicate and profound. You will forever know once you have read it, that this is a story that will forever touch both your soul and heart.
There is a word in Welsh, Hiraeth, which means a deep longing for something, somewhere and it fits this book beautifully. I will always wish I could read it for the first time again, visit the characters and get to know them, because I know and understand their pain and that’s because the writer created a connection between us. Honest, beautiful and complex, it is a book that should be on everyone’s to be read pile.
You can buy this novel directly from the publisher Orenda Books.
Or from your local independent bookshop!
About the author
Helga Flatland is already 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 (her first English translation), 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. One Last Time was published in 2020 and is currently topping bestseller lists in Norway
About the translator
Rosie Hedger was born in Scotland and completed her MA (Hons) in Scandinavian Studies at the University of Edinburgh. She has lived and worked in Norway, Sweden and Denmark, and now lives in York where she works as a freelance translator. Rosie was a candidate in the British Center for Literary Translation’s mentoring scheme for Norwegian in 2012, mentored by Don Bartlett.
Visit her website: rosiehedger.com and follow her on Twitter @rosie_hedger