See You Tomorrow, by Tore Renberg, is a disturbing tale of people making a mess of their lives. Three groups of disparate characters living in a small town in Norway find their lives overlapping during an intense three days. The reader is taken inside each of their heads, an often uncomfortable place to be. There is little common sense in any of their behaviours, yet the actions depicted are depressingly believable.
All of the characters have back stories that have left them damaged. Their lives are filled with personal isolation, broken families and a seeming inability to take control with any sort of sagacity. I found it hard to empathise with many of the predicaments described, the choices made being hard to comprehend as so lacking in foresight.
The loving father who had run up debts was desperate and perhaps didn’t understand exactly what he was getting himself into. The teenagers were exploring boundaries, sexual awakenings and new relationships so could be forgiven many of their actions due to age and inexperience. This group garnered more of my sympathy, even if the consequences they created proved to be the most devastating.
It was the group of small time crooks who frustrated me the most, and whose depiction gained the author my admiration. I had not considered that such people would think in the way described in this book, that they would commend each others execrable thoughts and actions, be so shallow in their aspirations; yet to choose to live such lives they would have to think differently. Their casual racism and sexism grated, but it was their mutual admiration for the highlights of their sordid lifestyle that I found hard to stomach.
See You Tomorrow is undoubtedly well written. The twists and turns of the plot were unpredictable and I was eager to find out what happened to each of the characters as the results of their actions played out. I like to read diversely and felt I learned something from this book about the workings of the underbelly of society. It is disturbing to think that such people may exist, not evil but smugly satisfied with their limited and damaging way of life.
The denouement left me feeling that little had been learned by the protagonists. I felt defeated by this, that society could be so disappointing. Whilst certainly not a feel good book, it is perhaps a powerful argument for supporting those in need, of not turning away. This is a story that challenged me with its pathos and anger. I will be mulling it over for some time to come.
My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Arcadia Books.