Let’s Hope for the Best

One day while nursing her young son, Carolina receives an email out of the blue from her boyfriend Aksel, detailing computer passwords and other practicalities in the event of his death. She grows worried at first, then irritated – this is so typical of her unsentimental life partner. Aksel ends the message: Let’s hope for the best! Five months later, he is dead.

In two interweaving narrative threads, debut writer Carolina Setterwall tells the story of falling in love with the complicated and irresistible Aksel, and the excruciating months after finding him dead in bed one morning. Carolina is thirty years old, single, and yearning for stability when she meets Aksel at a party. A passionate first encounter leads to months of courtship where she struggles to find her place. They fall in love, but Aksel is a man of few words, he needs to ease into situations and take things slow. Carolina pushes forward like a steamroller, restless to advance to the next level of their relationship – be it going on vacation, moving in together, buying a cat, or having a child. There’s something off about their pace, she notes early on. Through Carolina’s voice we experience the infinitely relatable longing, pain, and triumph of hobbling together a relationship and a life in the throes of high-speed urban life.

Interspliced with the intoxicating musings of falling in love are the dark months after Aksel’s sudden death, when Carolina finds herself as a thirty-six year-old widow and single mother who must put the pieces of herself and her life back together again. Even though Aksel died of natural causes, Carolina is convinced that she killed him by constantly pushing him beyond his comfort zone. Guilt coils like a black snake through Carolina’s story of waking up to a nightmare for which she was wholly unprepared. When a new love rushes into her life like a tidal wave, Carolina finds herself assuming the reticent role Aksel once held. The tables have turned. Can she love again, and at what cost?

Let’s Hope for the Best is a gut-wrenching story of overcoming grief and a bubbling love chronicle of our modern age. Writing in a direct and disarming style, Carolina Setterwall tells a nuanced tale about the many faces of grief, and about how even our closest relationships can be anything but simple. The use of the present tense throughout creates an immediacy that draws the reader into the turbulent emotional world of our heroine in a startling – and addictive – way. The reader knows what Carolina doesn’t: that her blossoming love story will end in tragedy. The pain of one storyline informs the exuberance of the other, creating a symphony of grief and desire that is rare in its honesty.

Told in double narratives that count down to one volcanic moment, Let’s Hope for the Best is at once a striking feat of autofiction and a stylistic tour de force. 

“/Carolina Setterwall/ is admirable in her honesty.”
Ingalill Mosander, Go’kväll (SE)

“Against the backdrop of a privileged and seemingly secure middle class life in the big city, the impossible happens. A woman wakes up one morning, but her husband doesn’t. He is dead. Now here she sits with a baby on her arm, not knowing what to make of life. The reader is invited to take part in a grieving process in two separate timelines, on the one hand a self-examining search for how they lived their lives, on the other hand a tale about how she gets through the period after his passing. The protagonist doesn’t spare herself for a moment. As the laconic comments and self-ironic musings spread across the pages she grows and becomes real and urgent. In Let’s Hope for the Best Carolina Setterwall has had the courage to portray vanity, guilt, and self-pity in exact words. It’s time for me to examine myself and the attitude I have towards those closest to me. What seems obvious now will be gone one day.”

CAROLINA SETTERWALL is a writer from Sala, Sweden. In 2018 she made her literary debut with Let’s Hope for the Best.

Learn more about Carolina Setterwall