In The White City, new mother Karin is clearly depressed. She’s struggling alone, the man she loves is gone. She calls her voicemail at low moments to listen to his final message to her, a suggestion they go kayaking on the weekend and a request to bring his sunglasses. The house is a mess. The snow has not been shoveled from the walkway. There’s no food in the house, she calls for pizza and the delivery guy expects to have sex with her.
What seems at first like postpartum depression and grief becomes more complex when two people from the government come by to tell her they are seizing her house and her car. We realize that John was a criminal, someone in organized crime. She suspects that some people owe her and seeks them out, asking them for help and discovers that the friendships built in criminal activity do not last. There is growing menace and danger as Karin seeks help from John’s partners.
I read The White City in one sitting. I was reading away, the recounting in minute detail of a day centered on feeding her daughter, taking a shower, changing diapers, and napping should have been dull as dishwater, but was so rich in mood and detail, so brilliantly written, that I was captured. The pages flew by, there’s a constant tension, a creeping unease.
So much of this story is told obliquely. We learn things by seeing things happen, we are never told, nothing is explained. Ramqvist trusts that we are smart enough to follow the narrative without explanation and she is right. This subtle and slow revelation, as piece by piece falls into place is brilliant and the kind of writing I most appreciate.
This is one of those stories that cannot be described by its plot. There’s no huge, intricate plot full of twists and turns. This is about atmosphere, about her dawning realization that her relationships may not be what she thought, that perhaps she must act. It’s quite wonderful.
The White City will be published February 7, 2017. I received an advance e-galley from the publisher through NetGalley.