In Ev­ery Mo­ment We Are Still Alive

Tom Malmquist

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews Adult Fiction -

Melville House (JAN­UARY) Hard­cover $25.99 (288pp) 978-1-61219-711-1

Malmquist’s im­mer­sive prose per­fectly limns the de­mands of liv­ing within the chiaroscuro of deep grief.

In Swe­den, two ex­pec­tant par­ents await the birth of their first child. But a rou­tine trip to the emer­gency room be­gins par­ent­hood for one par­ent, and ends it for the other. In Tom Malmquist’s har­row­ing story of loss, In Ev­ery Mo­ment We Are Still Alive, “all you can do is fall to pieces and then come back.”

Nei­ther Tom nor his part­ner Karin are pre­pared for her bad bout with the flu to morph into acute myeloid leukemia. Karin’s life-threat­en­ing di­ag­no­sis re­quires that she be put into a med­i­cally in­duced coma, and that their child, Livia, be de­liv­ered two months pre­ma­turely.

Sud­denly, Tom’s life is trans­formed into a chaos of shift­ing di­ag­noses, emer­gency in­ter­ven­tions, and ter­ri­ble grief as he’s shut­tled back and forth be­tween hospi­tal wards, trapped be­tween the life he’s known and the in­ex­orable changes bear­ing down on him.

Malmquist’s nar­ra­tive gives form to grief through the story’s for­mal con­struc­tion. Fa­mil­iar con­ven­tions—from para­graphs to di­a­logue to nar­ra­tive lin­ear­ity—loosely co­here, only to fall apart and re­form in new ways as the story shifts be­tween past and present. The para­graphs them­selves are dense, tight, and claus­tro­pho­bic; di­a­logue is un­marked by quo­ta­tion marks or para­graph breaks. This struc­ture of con­trolled chaos slowly re­veals Tom and Karin’s life to­gether, as flash­backs are in­ter­spersed with an over­whelm­ing present.

The pain of the nar­ra­tor’s ex­pe­ri­ence is al­most pal­pa­ble; this book is hard to read in the best of ways. Malmquist per­fectly cap­tures the op­pres­sion and la­bo­ri­ous­ness of var­i­ous sys­tems—from hos­pi­tals to so­cial se­cu­rity to mor­tu­ary ser­vices. Con­nec­tions be­tween peo­ple are hardly any bet­ter. It’s al­most im­pos­si­ble to keep straight the ro­ta­tion of doc­tors, friends, and fam­ily. The kalei­do­scope of char­ac­ters is dis­con­cert­ing and anx­i­ety-pro­duc­ing. In con-

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