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Excerpt from The End of the Ocean by Maja Lunde, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The End of the Ocean

by Maja Lunde

The End of the Ocean by Maja Lunde X
The End of the Ocean by Maja Lunde
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  • Published:
    Jan 2020, 304 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Elisabeth Herschbach
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Print Excerpt


"Do you remember," Mommy said to me, "that you said you wished your birthday was in the winter?"

"No."

Mommy continued, "That you cried when Birgit had her birthday and it snowed? And you wanted a snowman, do you remember?"

Daddy said to Mommy in a hard voice, "Have you driven it all the way down from the mountain?"

"Sønstebø brought it for me. He was going to pick some up for the fish landing station anyway," she answered.

I turned around and discovered Sønstebø, the farmer from Eidesdalen. He was standing beside the truck, looking at me, smiling. I understood that he was waiting for something from me. Behind him stood his son, Magnus.

There you were, Magnus. I knew who you were before, because you sometimes came with your father on his truck when he delivered ice. But nonetheless, I think of that moment as the first time I saw you. You stood there, barefoot, your feet brown from the sun and dirt, and you waited for something—like all the others, you were waiting for me. You reminded me of a squirrel, with round, brown eyes that noticed everything. You were just eight years old, but you noticed that something was at stake, I believe, something that wasn't said—that somebody needed you, or would come to need you. That's how you were. That's how he was.

"So Sønstebø had to make an extra trip?" Daddy asked softly. "All the way from the mountain?"

I hoped that he would put his arm around Mommy, the way he did sometimes—put it around her and squeeze her against him. But he didn't move.

"It's Signe's birthday, she wished for this," Mommy said.

"And what does Sønstebø get in return?"

"He thought it was fun. He loved that I wanted to do it, he loved the idea."

"Everyone loves your ideas."

Then Mommy turned to face me. "You can make a snowman, Signe. Wouldn't you like to do that? We can make a snowman, all of us!"

I didn't want to make a snowman, but still I said yes.

I slipped in my good shoes and almost fell, my balance was off on the white surface she called snow, but Mommy grabbed hold of me and kept me on my feet.

The moisture and the cold penetrated the soles of my shoes, hard granules of ice spilled across my feet and melted against my thin knee socks.

I bent down, took a fistful of snow in my hands, and tried to make a snowball, but it was like nib sugar, it just disintegrated.

I looked up. Everyone was watching me, all the party guests were watching. Magnus stood completely still, only his eyes moved, his gaze going from the snow to me and back again. He had never received snow for his birthday—it was probably only hotel daughters who received that—and I wished he wasn't here to see this.

But Mommy smiled, smiled as broadly as the doll, the largest in the store. And again I tried to make a snowball—I had to manage it, there had to be a snowball. I had to make a huge snowman, because I didn't remember that I'd wished for a winter birthday. I couldn't remember that I had ever spoken with Mommy about this, or that I had cried on Birgit's birthday. But I had, and now Daddy was angry with Mommy. Maybe I had said that I wanted a doll too, and forgotten about it. It was my fault, all of this—that I was standing here and that my feet were so exceedingly cold, with ice water dribbling through my fingers, that everyone was standing here and behaving oddly around me, that the dry courtyard was turning muddy and vile, that Daddy looked at Mommy with a gaze that I didn't understand, and that he put his hands down into the pockets of his trousers in a way that made his shoulders narrow. And also that Magnus was here. I wished with my entire pounding seven-year-old heart that he hadn't seen me like this.

That's why I lied. For the first time in my life I lied. Some children can lie—they do it without thinking twice. It's easy for them to say that they didn't take the cookies from the jar or that they lost their workbook on the way home. But I wasn't that kind of child, just like I was not a child who liked to imagine things; make-believe games and pretend worlds were not for me. And maybe for that reason, lying wasn't either. I had so far in my life not been in situations where I needed to lie, and I had also never considered the idea that it was actually possible, that a lie could solve something.

Excerpted from The End of the Ocean by Maja Lunde. Copyright © 2020 by Maja Lunde. Excerpted by permission of Harper Via. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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