“Norwegian by Night” is a charming novel that explores fatherhood, aging, love and personal and societal values. It’s the story of an ordinary American man who is trying to make amends with his past as he faces the end of his life. At times sweet, funny and sad, it is always heartfelt and imaginative.
Sheldon Horowitz is a Jewish Korean war vet who moves to Norway to be with his granddaughter, Rhea. He has outlived his wife and his only child, so Rhea is the only family he has left. But Norway is very different than New York City and the 83-year-old Sheldon is struggling with the adjustment. He’s also struggling with some survivor’s guilt, loneliness and the effects of getting old.
When his upstairs neighbor is brutally murdered, Sheldon finds himself suddenly cast in the role of temporary protector of her 8-year-old, non-English-speaking son, whom Sheldon decides to call Paul. Sheldon looks at this as an opportunity to redeem some of his past, and with that motivation drags Paul across the country in an effort to find safety. Along the way, Sheldon has flashbacks about his war experience and also holds conversations with a long dead friend, giving the reader insight into what kind of man he is and what made him that way.
I loved this book. Sheldon is a classic loveable curmudgeon, who has a lot of depth and layers of complexity. The relationship he develops with Paul and the situations they find themselves in while on the run had me both laughing and crying (darn it!). The flashbacks the author created are imaginative and a very effective tool for character development. He also created a decently suspenseful plot that makes a statement about some of the challenges Europe faces as it tries to have more open borders.
Overall, I give an enthusiastic thumbs up for “Norwegian by Night”.