Last year half-Norwegian, half-American author Alex Dahl made a stunning debut with her psychological thriller The Boy at the Door. About a woman who had it all – a fancy job, a loving husband, two daughters, and a fantastic home in an affluent Norwegian suburb. But she has many secrets and has to work very hard to keep up the façade. One day when someone forgets to pick up their little boy at the local pool, she agrees to take him home with her – and that´s the first step in the relentless unfolding of her meticulously crafted life.
The Boy at the Door is a tense gripping story about womanhood and motherhood and so is Alex Dahl´s new novel The Heart Keeper, where she tells the parallel stories of two mothers and a young child in the aftermath of a tragic accident. When Alison’s beloved daughter Amalie drowns, Alison completely falls apart. But somewhere else, another family’s life is changed for the better, when Iselin´s young daughter Kaia, after years of severe health problems, receives a new heart.
The two women Alison and Iselin are extremely different. Before the accident Alison had everything, money, an elegant home and a lovely family. Iselin is a single mother with very little money, who has to give up many things to care for her daughter. The author effectively draws the reader between Alison and Iselin’s narratives, and slowly the paths between the two families converge.
When Alison finds out that the girl who received her daughter’s heart lives in the neighbourhood, she decides to help Iselin and Kaia and make things easier for them. But when Alison learns about the hypothesis of cellular memory, she becomes fixated on the idea. Maybe something of Amalie is still there, living on in the girl who received her heart? Step by step Alison´s grief turns into a dark and terrifying obsession and she won’t let anything stop her from getting back what she has lost.
Alex Dahl certainly has a talent for writing about complex characters, who are at the same time repelling and deeply sympathetic. The women in her novels are both frail and strong and the balancing of their positive and negative attributes makes them very human and believable. Alex Dahl has so far written two really original and thought-provoking stories about being a woman and a mother and if you like them, you´ll be glad to hear that she is busy editing a new novel.