In In Every Moment We Are Still Alive we hear of the horrifying moment in which Tom gains a daughter but loses his soul-mate, thanks to a cruel twist of fate. In a single moment he loses hope and his story about love, loss and living with unexpected grief begins.
“The consultant stamps down the wheel lock of Karin’s hospital bed. In a loud voice he addresses the intensive care nurses, who are cutting open her tank top and sports bra”
The book opens with Tom’s partner Karin in hospital with suspected flu. The doctors start to treat her, with it later transpiring that she has acute Leukemia; their baby is delivered healthily, but sadly Karin cannot be saved. Tom is plunged into darkness and is left to raise Livia solo.
Malmquist’s writing (and Koch’s translation) is sparse and clinical, effortlessly transporting the reader to the maze of hospital corridors that Tom must have faced during Karin’s rapid decline in health. Stylistically, his writing is very straight forward, however he still manages to pours his soul onto the page in a unique way. Using emotive language sparingly, his prose mirrors the void that Tom must have been feeling in both the lead up to, and the days that followed, Karin’s death.
As the year goes on, we start to understand how Tom’s grief imposes itself upon his familial relationships, putting pressure on his Mother during a time where his Father has his own serious health issues to deal with. He has a knack for writing about ordinary, everyday moments and simple day-to-day life with such clarity; as a reader he makes us understand that during periods of intense sadness life must continue. Over time, hope slowly starts to re-emerge, which makes the traumatic loss of his wife feel even more heart-breaking.
To me, In Every Moment We Are Still Alive is not a novel, but a factual and auto-biographical retelling of Tom’s loss and the days, weeks and months of bereavement that follow. It’s a love letter to Karin and a keepsake for his daughter’s future.
It sounds really morbid, but I find memoirs about loss, grief and mental health fascinating. This was no exception, it was heart-breaking, tender and hypnotic – rich and raw, I couldn’t put this down. At the end of the day, once I had closed the last page, it made me squeeze my loved ones just that little bit tighter.
Give it a go if you enjoyed: The Last Act of Love by Cathy Rentzenbrink
Author: Tom Malmquist/ Henning Koch
Published by: Sceptre
Hardback: 288 pages – this book will be released 1st June 2017 and can be pre-ordered through my book depository link here.
Disclaimer: I was very kindly sent an advanced review copy of this book from the lovely folk at Sceptre in exchange for a fair and honest review.