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In Every Moment We Are Still Alive

Monday, January 29, 2018

Happy Monday, My Lovelies!  Today I'm reviewing an autobiographical novel written by a Swedish poet: In Every Moment We Are Still Alive by Tom Malmquist.

About In Every Moment We Are Still Alive

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Melville House (January 30, 2018)
A prize-winning, bestselling debut of love, loss, and family–based on a true story–that’s winning readers around the world.
When Tom’s heavily pregnant girlfriend Karin is rushed to the hospital, doctors are able to save the baby. But they are helpless to save Karin from what turns out to be acute Leukemia. And in a cruel, fleeting moment Tom gains a daughter but loses his soul-mate. In Every Moment We Are Alive is the story of the year that changes everything, as Tom must reconcile the fury and pain of loss with the overwhelming responsibility of raising his daughter, Livia, alone.
By turns tragic and redemptive, meditative and breathless, achingly poignant and darkly funny, this autobiographical novel has been described as ‘hypnotic’, ‘impossible to resist’ and ‘one of the most powerful books about grief ever written’.
Shortlisted for the Nordic Council Literary Award — the ‘Nordic Booker’ — the judges praised it as “one of the most powerful books about grief ever written.” Malmquist is the first novelist to ever win Sweden’s prestigious Dagens Nyheter Culture Prize.  This novel is translated from Swedish by Henning Koch (the translator of Fredrik Backman’s A Man Called Ove). 
“Beautiful…arresting… A deeply personal account. As more books are published, we increasingly seek out those writers who promise to give us something more than mere fiction. We want books made out of lives… The value of Malmquist’s book is precisely that it retains a trace of true human presence… carefully preserved by the author.” – The Guardian
“It is bound to invite comparison to Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle… Perhaps more so than Knausgaard, Malmquist demonstrates over lengthy passages that he can relay life in an intense, heightened state. The result is exhilarating.” –Financial Times  
A unique form… infused with deep urgency. A great stylist, Malmquist’s immersive prose perfectly limns the demands of living within the chiaroscuro of deep grief.” —Foreword Reviews, starred review 
“By turns raw, unsettled, and touching, Malmquist’s book is an extended meditation on what it means to love and to mourn. A deeply emotional and affecting novel.” – Kirkus
“Kafkaesque… remarkably credible.” – Booklist
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About Tom Malmquist

Tom Malmquist is a poet and sportswriter. He has written two highly acclaimed poetry collections. In Every Moment We Are Still Alive is his first novel. He lives in Sweden.

My Review:

This is a very difficult book to read both because of the content and the writing style.  First I'll explain about the writing style.  Malmquist uses very little parenthetical and chapter breaks.  Plus he doesn't use any quotation marks for dialogue, so it's very difficult to figure out who's saying what.  It's also difficult understanding who the secondary characters are and what their relationships are to either Tom or Karin because there is no explanation.  It's as if Tom keeps a notebook and takes copious notes only for himself, which is what Tom actually does in the hospital when Karin was admitted pregnant and with acute, terminal leukemia.  He writes down everything the mdeical professionals tell him about Karin's case and prognosis.  As a reader I felt like I was spying on a group of people, and I was left to my own devices to figure out the story, or I was reading a very personal journal that would not and should not make sense to me.  The narrative does oscillate back and forth between the present and the past, and this is good because it helps to explain who the secondary characters are, and it also helps convey Tom and Karin's love story.  But the changes in the narrative are abrupt and happen as quickly as an unbidden memory in the middle of a conversation.

The content is very difficult to read.  Karin is such a tragic character: she's had cancer before and when she develops leukemia out of the blue seven months into her pregnancy my heart breaks for her, Tom, and their baby.  Their daughter Livia is born via cesarean section so Karin can begin chemotherapy.  Tom is very descriptive of Karin's declining health, procedures, and her appearance. He also spends quite a bit of time detailing the red tape he must cut through in proving to the Swedish government that he is indeed Livia's father.  His descriptions of Karin in the final stages of her illness are extremely hard to read.  Not only does Tom have to deal with his grief over Karin while taking care of a premie baby, his father's cancer has accelerated and he must deal with even more grief.  During this part of the book we learn about Tom's childhood.  Tom's father enjoyed a highly successful if not controversial career as one of Sweden's top sports journalists.  

Although difficult to read and sad beyond comprehension, I couldn't put this book down.  Part of the reason why is determination: I was determined to conquer the story and see how Tom handles being a single father, grief, and his father's illness.  Also, I find the topic interesting.  Grief is as individual as a fingerprint or snowflake: No one handles it the same.  It's something we must deal with on our own, and as well-meaning as our loved ones are, they can't really help other than pray.  Although "life must go on" when we lose someone we love, this book isn't a cliché.  It's about Tom, his love for Karin, his grief over her death, his acceptance of his father's death, and his determination to be a good daddy to Livia.  Although not as poetic as I'd expected given that Tom Malmquist is a poet, this novel is beautiful because of Tom's expression of his love and grief for Karin and his life with Livia without her.

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Disclosure:  I received an ARC of In Every Moment We Are Still Alive from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.  

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill


  1. Thanks for the HONEST review, Ricki. It is probably one I will not put on my "to read" list. I like a book that is a bit 'ordered' and easy to understand-especially with dialogue.

    Hope you have a beautiful week. xo Diana

  2. It sounds like a powerful book and I appreciate your honest review. It sounds like it could have done with a good editor -- which sometimes even journals read. I think I might give this one a pass but will remember the title because you never know...

  3. Fredrik Backman is also from Sweden. I read all of his books. They deal with LIFE issues as well, some very difficult. I enjoyed his writing and I found it interesting we have another Swedish author dealing with REAL LIFE issues. Thank You for the review. I will check this one out.

  4. Again, I love your honesty Ricki Jill! This book does not appeal, mainly for the topic, but especially for the confusing writing style you described... I do enjoy seeing and hearing about all kinds of books, even if I don't want to read them.


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I'm Ricki Jill. Welcome! I'm honored that you're reading my blog. I enjoy sharing my creative lifestyle @ The Bookish Dilettante. For more information about my blog, please read the Start Here page. Thank-you for stopping by, and I hope you'll consider following me via email.


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