Book Review: What My Body Remembers (Agnete Friis) @soho_press

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Ella, a woman with a tainted past, will stop at nothing to protect her son. Struggling to remember incidents of her childhood that leave her with paralyzing panic attacks, her son is taken from her and put into a foster home. After Ella kidnaps him and flees to the small town where she was born, deeply buried family secrets force, Ella, to confront her past and finally uncover what her body has been trying to tell her all this time. What happened the night her mother was murdered? Was her father wrongfully convicted?

What My Body Remembers, a new slow burning suspense by Agnete Friis (OUT TODAY!) combines a tightly woven plot and unreliable characters to create a story that will both unnerve and compel its readers. Finally, a Nordic Noir that I can fully become consumed it! I often struggle with some of the Nordic crime stories I try to read as they usually follow a police procedural style narrative; however, What My Body Remembers breaks this mould!

Characters are central to pushing the plot of the story and Friis doesn’t hold back in her development of them. Each character, more complex and unreliable than the last, blend effortlessly into a tense narrative that I read easily in one sitting.  Told through multiple perspectives (including Ella’s father, and mother), the majority of the story is told through the eyes of Ella. I really loved this narrative choice. I felt for Ella as she struggled to try and understand what she doesn’t remember about her past and grapples with her role as a mother. I loved her backstory as well; she was by no means a likeable character, but she was a raw and relatable character which I appreciated!

Like a true Nordic novel, this one relied on building atmospheric tension instead of surprising story arcs. Although I didn’t find myself particularly shocked at any of the plot twists in this one, it was so well written, I didn’t mind. Friis had an uncanny ability with her prose to suck me in and make me lose track of time.

Overall, I would absolutely read another story by this author and would recommend this read to anyone who likes something slower paced and poignant.  I gave this one 4/5 stars.

I gave this one 4/5 stars.

Thanks to the publisher and the author for a copy of this novel; it was my pleasure to provide an honest review!

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This was also a #cjsreads pick!  Keep reading to see what Chandra and Jessica thought about this one!

What Chandra Thought:

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The night her father kills her mother, Ella is only seven years old and becomes part of the system. She acts out and becomes unexpectedly pregnant at a young age. Her post-traumatic amnesia leads to severe panic attacks, leaving her in question with the state regarding her ability to take care of not only herself but her son as well. When it becomes apparent that the state wants to take her son away, she takes matters into her own hands and runs away with him. Heading back to her grandmother’s abandoned house, she’s forced to confront the past she can’t remember.

This book is shown mostly through Ella’s eyes with flashbacks through her parents (father, Helgi and mother, Anna) leading up to Anna’s death. The author builds the story in an atmospherically beautiful and poignant way. We see the human struggle in all three characters – the marriage that falls apart, psychological damages that incur, a child’s memory confused by her own immature mind. An absolutely gorgeous read. I guessed correctly at the ending and what was coming as it was happening, but it didn’t take away from me loving the book any less. If you’re looking for something fast paced and a twist that punches you in the face, this probably isn’t quite the read you’re looking for. However, if you’re looking for a beautiful, atmospheric thriller that hits your emotional centre, this is it. While the ending is not surprising, the author builds the entire story in a way that leaves you satisfied. Be warned that this story is bleak with an extremely flawed and unlikeable lead character. In fact, none of the characters are likeable – but they are real and raw and that’s something I can absolutely appreciate in a well-written book.

What Jessica Thought: 

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What My Body Remembers by Agnete Friis is not your typical Nordic Noir type thriller. It’s not a heavy police procedural and doesn’t involve a lengthy investigation from the perspective of police detectives. In fact, it doesn’t involve any of those elements at all. It sticks to the flawed perspective of our lead character.

Ella Nygaard has been a ward of the state since she was 7 years old, since the night her father murdered her mother. Now at age 27, she doesn’t remember any specifics about that night or even from her childhood before that night. She doesn’t remember, but her body does, in the form of PTSD. The PTSD-induced panic attacks she now suffers incapacitate her for hours, and sometimes days at a time which is impacting her ability to care for herself and her young son.

After one particularly bad episode, Ella finds herself in a psych ward. She soon discovers that her son, Alex, has been taken from her by the state and placed with a foster family. Driven by desperation, Ella kidnaps Alex and flees to her grandmother’s abandoned house. Being back in the small town forces Ella to confront the demons of her childhood that her memory has tried so hard to obscure. What really happened that night her mother died? Was her grandmother right, was Ella’s father unjustly convicted? What other secrets were her parents hiding from each other? If Ella can start to remember, maybe her scars will begin to heal or maybe the truth will put her in even greater danger.

This was definitely more of an atmospheric thriller. We go through the story in the eyes of Ella, with some flashbacks through her parents’ perspectives. If you’re looking for the fast-paced, edge of your seat type thriller, then this probably isn’t the one you’re looking for. This is a very bleak and emotional read. We have a lead character that is incredibly flawed and unreliable. You can’t relate to her or even try to like her (I actually can’t think of any of the characters that had that ‘likeable’ trait to them). This keeps the characters real, emotional and reminds the reader that no one is perfect.
I give this one a solid 4/5 stars. I’ll definitely look for more from Agnete Friis in the future.

 

 

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6 thoughts on “Book Review: What My Body Remembers (Agnete Friis) @soho_press

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