Hunger

It is 1897 and a young couple is on the run across the mountains of Norway. Unni has narrowly escaped imprisonment for conducting illegal abortions and by her side is the vagabond Armod. Carrying only Unni’s toddler son Roar, her red box of healing herbs, and their love for each other, Unni and Armod cross the border into Sweden. In a deserted cottage in a clearing between human land and wilderness, the little flock makes a home.

In 1973, two widows sit across each other at a table that Armod built seventy years earlier. Aging Bricken is planning the funeral of her husband Roar under the watchful eyes of her daughter-in-law Kåra. Unbeknownst to Bricken, Kåra has emotional claims on Roar that are impossible to voice aloud. But Bricken is also hiding a lifetime of unspoken secrets. A duel of silence takes place as both women wait for the other to make the first move.

At the turn of the century, there’s no shortage of love at the cottage, but tenderness won’t fill an aching belly. Unni and Armod toil tirelessly to clear the earth and plant crops, while also working off the debt to the farmer who sold them the plot of land on credit. When Unni gives birth to a daughter, the initial joy is soon replaced by the anguish of another mouth to feed. The small family is mere days from starvation when salvation arrives in the most unexpected of forms. But the laws of nature and man are brutal, and death soon comes knocking at their door.

Growing up, Kåra was labeled odd. She has madness in her mind and violence in her bones. Marrying Bricken and Roar’s only son Dag was a way to escape into normalcy and avoid being institutionalized. But within the confines of their cottage, Kåra starts to cross line after line. How can she get rid of her feeble-minded husband? And a crying toddler can be silenced with the right remedies. Kåra is jealous of what Roar and Bricken have together but there is also something off about their relationship. What are they hiding? And then there are the stories about Roar’s brave mother Unni. Why did she, who was willing to sacrifice everything for her family, finally abandon them? With Roar gone, Kåra is determined to find out a long-buried truth.

Hunger by debut novelist Lina Nordquist is a gripping tale about love, family secrets and human perseverance. Part heart-wrenching emigrant story and part dark and twisty family drama, Hunger is at once a gorgeous tour de force and a wholly surprising page-turner. Nordquist artfully jumps between two timelines and perspectives in alternating chapters, weaving together the stories of Unni and Kåra across the decades that separate them – and ending with a shocking twist.

Hunger portrays how we have always been dependent on nature to survive, on the compassion of our fellow human beings, and also on luck which – with a roll of the dice – can mean the difference between life and death. […] Hunger is one of few recently published novels that actually makes you grab hold of the spine of the book hard enough to turn your knuckles white and cause tears to flow, as the book reminds you of the dreams and hardships of relatives in the past. The homestead life in Lina Nordquist’s successful debut novel creates a form of elevation of our own every day life and puts it in razor sharp perspective.”
Upsala Nya Tidning (SE)

Hunger is an impressive debut. A drama where the stakes are life or death, portrayed in a singular and restrained vibrating style. About love, madness, and belonging.”
– M Magazine (SE)

Hunger is told in a vivid style that sparks expectations. [Nordquist’s] carefully crafted characters and her authentic portrayal of the harsh homestead life at the turn of the century is captivating, and her knowledge of how nature shifts is breathtaking. The story is thrilling and unpredictable, it surprises over and over again. […] An incredibly impressive historical novel.”
– BTJ, 5 /5 stars (SE)

“Lina Nordquist makes her debut with a novel about poverty, betrayal, and misery. The style is beautiful and the story that evolves on the page is both tender and gripping. […] An impressive and promising debut, to say the least.”
– Gefle Dagblad (SE)

 

Lina Nordquist (1977) is a writer, physiologist, and politician from Hälsingland, Sweden. Hunger (2021) is her literary debut.

Learn more about Lina Nordquist