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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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    Jan 2020, 304 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Elisabeth Herschbach
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My phone was broken. My wristwatch had been bartered away. I didn't know what time it was. But the fence before me still cast a short shadow, so it couldn't be more than three.

I walked quickly. Now we would find them again. For sure they had arrived here before us.

We reached the entrance. Two guards wearing military uniforms sat by a table. They looked at us without seeing us.

"Papers?" one of them said.

"I'm looking for someone," I said.

"Papers first," the guard said.

"But—"

"Don't you want to go inside?"

I placed our passports in front of him, but left Anna's and August's passports in the bag. The guard didn't need to see that we had them. He would certainly start asking questions.

He leafed quickly through the pages in my passport, stopped at the photograph. I was startled every time I saw it. The guy in the photograph—was that me? Such round cheeks, almost chubby. Had the camera distorted my face? No, that was just how I was at the time. Stout, not fat, merely in good health. Or maybe just normal, actually. Maybe that was how we all looked before.

He picked up Lou's—it was newer, but Lou grew so fast. The child in the passport could have been anyone—four years old when the photograph was taken. Smiling. Not as serious as she is now.

I had braided her hair this morning. I was good at it. Brushed it and divided it into two identical sections, with a sharp part in between. Then I quickly made two tight braids that hung down her back. Maybe it was because of the braids we had finally been picked up by a driver. Now I hoped they distracted people, so they wouldn't notice how dirty she was, and thin—so they wouldn't notice her seriousness. She seldom smiled, my child. Before she was the kind of child who was always jumping, running, skipping. But now the braids just hung down her back, completely motionless.

The guard continued looking at me. Clearly he was comparing me with the photo in the passport.

"It's five years old," I said. "I was only twenty."

"Do you have anything else? Other papers that can confirm your identity?"

I shook my head.

"This was all I managed to take with me."

He looked at the picture one more time, as if it could provide him with answers. Then he took out a stapler and two light-green slips of paper. With practiced movements he stapled them onto random pages in the passports.

He held them out to me. "Fill these out."

"Where?"

"Here. On the forms."

"I mean ... where? Do you have a table?"

"No."

I took the passports. He had left mine open at the page with the green form.

"Do you have a pen, then?"

I tried to smile. But the guard just shook his head in resignation. His eyes did not meet mine.

"I've lost mine," I said.

That wasn't completely true. It wasn't lost—the ink was used up. Lou had been crying so much the other night on the road, sobbing softly with her face hidden in her hands. I let her draw. She drew thick blue lines of ink on the back of an old envelope we found on the side of the road. Drew pictures of girls in dresses and colored in the skirts. She pressed the pen down so hard that it made holes in the paper.

The guard rummaged through a box on the ground. He pulled out a battered, blue, ballpoint pen with a broken plastic casing. "I want it back."

I had to fill out the forms standing up. I had nothing to lean the passports against. My handwriting came out wobbly and strange. I tried to hurry. My hand shook. Occupation. Last place of work. Last place of residence. Where we had come from. Where we were headed. Where were we headed?

"The water countries, David," Anna used to say to me. "That's where we have to go."

The drier our own country became, the more she talked about the countries in the north, where the rain didn't just come once in a great while during the cold months, but also in the spring and summer. Where long-term drought didn't exist. But where instead the opposite was true: the rain was an affliction, arriving in storms. Where rivers flooded over and dams burst, abruptly and brutally.

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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