Mirror, Shoulder, Signal: A Novel (Paperback)
I loved the voice of Sonja, a middle-aged translator in Copenhagen who's learning to drive for the first time. She's neurotic, but very thoughtful in how she navigates her anxieties––about using a stick shift, her bossy instructor, the grisly details of the mystery she's translating, her overly familiar massage therapist, her overly familiar second driving instructor, her estranged sister, homesickness, and loneliness. Despite all these concerns, Sonja is a quick-witted and engaging narrator of her own little life. I was glad to share it, briefly.— Michael
A smart, witty novel of driving lessons and vertigo, short-listed for the Man Booker International Prize
Sonja is ready to get on with her life. She’s over forty now, and the Swedish crime novels she translates are losing their fascination. She sees a masseuse, tries to reconnect with her sister, and is finally learning to drive. But under the overbearing gaze of her driving instructor, Sonja is unable to shift gears for herself. And her vertigo, which she has always carefully hidden, has begun to manifest at the worst possible moments.
Sonja hoped her move to Copenhagen years ago would have left rural Jutland in the rearview mirror. Yet she keeps remembering the dramatic landscapes of her childhood—the endless sky, the whooper swans, the rye fields—and longs to go back. But how can she return to a place that she no longer recognizes? And how can she escape the alienating streets of Copenhagen?
In Mirror, Shoulder, Signal, Dorthe Nors brings her distinctive blend of style, humor, and insight to a poignant journey of one woman in search of herself when there’s no one to ask for directions.
About the Author
Dorthe Nors is the author of two novellas, So Much for That Winter; a story collection, Karate Chop, winner of the Per Olov Enquist Literary Prize; and four novels. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine, A Public Space, Tin House, and elsewhere. She lives in Denmark.
“Opening [Mirror, Shoulder, Signal] feels like opening a window—there’s a bracing freshness and chill to the writing, and the unforced ease of a song. . . . Nors can’t help but handle words in interesting ways and put them to original uses. . . . If her subject is unwavering, her style remains restless, less out of a desire to be ‘experimental’ than out of playfulness and a genuine yearning, one feels, for contact and connection.”—The New York Times
“Exquisite. . . . Nors gives the invisible woman the dignity of her artful gaze. . . . This triumphant novel sounds the depths of women’s unseen strength in a register that reconciles enlightened feminism with working-class rage.”—The New York Times Book Review
“In flowing and absorbing prose, Nors illustrates . . . how it might be possible for anyone to overcome immense loneliness and make a connection.”—The New Yorker
“First rate. . . . Often hilarious. . . . Exceedingly smart. . . . [Dorthe Nors] possesses a rare gift.”—NPR “Fresh Air”
“[Nors’ writing is] agile and profound. . . . The novel’s power builds as Sonja’s inner world unfolds.”—The Atlantic
“Dorthe Nors is one of the most original voices in current Danish writing.”—CBC Radio, “Writers & Company”
“With this quietly moving story . . . Nors seems on the fast track to becoming a global writer.”—Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
“[A] wonderfully understated novel. . . . [Dorthe Nors is] a writer who improves with every sentence.”—Rabih Alameddine, Literary Hub
“While the story contains overarching symbolism, metaphors, and analogies . . . Nors’s hand remains light, and the effects are subtle and elegant.”—Ploughshares
“Nors’s exceptional writing and her insightful grasp on the human condition bolster the heartbreak of Sonya’s isolated, solitary existence.”—Shelf Awareness
“Nors has written a novel full of laughs and melancholy as readers observe Sonja trying to gain her freedom.”—Signature Reads
“Nors is an exquisitely precise writer, and in rendering her heroine’s small disruptions and, yes, victories, she is writing for, and of, every one of us.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“Astute and contemplative. . . . Nors conjures a gently fraught reality in prose that evokes a life paused halfway between nostalgia for the past and hope for the future.”—Publishers Weekly
“This bewitching Danish novel reveals its tragicomic depths gradually.”—The Guardian (UK)