I read this book and was initially fooled into thinking it wasn’t too bad, since it wasn’t as dreadful as some of the other Kindle First books I’ve come across. But after a few chapters, I came to a sad realization about Ingrid Winter. Girl is straight dumb. Like, dangerously so. And since this book is basically all about her and her inability to function normally as an adult, it was hard to like the book much when you have to admit to yourself that the main character is sort of an idiot.
The book opens up on Ingrid Winter’s chaotic family life in suburban Norway, complete with three crazy little girls with competing school schedules and personalities, an exasperated husband who just can’t seem to catch all of Ingrid’s veiled Bladerunner allusions (I know. How did she marry him?), a demanding job, and a house that’s just way too small. Despite the cliché of it all, I liked Ingrid and Bjornar, her husband. They were sweet to each other despite the trials and tribulations of finding the balance between their marriage, their lives outside the home, and their kids. Maybe it was the charm of the European culture, maybe it was just my bleeding Mom and Wife heart tugging at their situation, or maybe pregnancy is just making me more sappy (it’s definitely making me more sappy.) Who knows. Whatever the reason, I was enjoying the book more than I had expected so far.
It quickly went downhill.
The first conflict arose when Ingrid finds her dream home for sale in their neighborhood. Before we get to that, though, there’s something you guys need to know. Ingrid is ~*quirky. I’m talking hypochondriac, referencing obscure science fiction, obessesing over Siberian sinkholes and smelling like wine when she picks up her preschooler level quirky, guys. Like she’s giving Zooey Deschanel a run for her money. The real deal. Anyway, the house, that she of course can’t imagine living without because it’s just like an Astrid Lindgren house (~*quirky) is basically balls expensive. I’m talking “We could afford a second house with the amount over our budget the price is,” expensive, but Ingrid buys it anyway, despite her husband’s reservations and triple-checked calculations. Oh Ingrid, you poor, loveable, mess. You’re in trouble now! What will she do?! Her crazy understanding husband who completely redeems his lack of sci-fi knowledge by being totally chill about the whole situation says that he’ll pick up extra hours on the weekends and make it work. Whoa. Definitely keep this guy around.
The next problem arises when Ingrid can’t seem to sell their old house because the market is terrible or something, and oh man. THE PRESSURE. It’s heating up.
BUT THAT’S NOT ALL.
Soon she’s learning that some reassignment is going to happen at work, where she’s a professor of literature (whose students can’t get on her level. Her brain is THAT unique). Someone from the department is going to be relegated to the University’s Preschool. (Seriously, a university preschool. Is this a European thing? I have no idea.) In an act of blatant defiance, several of Ingrid’s coworkers, whom she neither likes or respects and whom she frequently describes as a group of incompetent idiots (I’m starting to realize she fits right in…) decide to create a secret club to protest the situation. The ringleader decides Ingrid would make a great “Bad Cop” for reasons never fully explained, and instead of realizing “Hey, these people suck and maybe I shouldn’t go along with this” Ingrid agrees. Not only that, but when she comes up with a really sensible plan to reallocate classes and coursework that would actually let everyone keep their jobs, she chucks it out the metaphorical window and instead throws a fit for ergonomic office chairs for the entire department in an attempt to be the baddest cop around. I just…. I don’t even know what that was supposed to accomplish.
As punishment, her boss sends her to St. Petersberg to accomplish the un-accomplishable. She must convince the forboding Russians (who are seriously cut no slack in this book. Vodka and bear clichés abound) to unite their universities in an attempt at “Internationalization.” I was sick of this word in two pages. While there, the idiot ringleader of Ingrid’s secret band of rebels takes a precious icon from the University’s Dean, thinking that it was a gift, and instead of admitting what happens, decides to hide it while the entire staff is freaking out over the fact that such an invaluable possession is missing. He confides in Ingrid, who hides it again, instead of explaining the situation. At this point I’m literally having to breathe into a brown bag to calm down from the sheer stupidity and avoidabliity of the entire situation, and apparently, Ingrid needs to as well, because she’s stressing herself out so much that her thighs are constantly shaking (again, is this a common European expression of anxiety?? Cultural differences I guess? I don’t know, man.)
To top it all off, she decides to kiss some random Russian dude that she charmingly calls “Pretty Putin,” (~* quirky) after getting doped up on Russian cough syrup and wine. Great.
By the end of the novel,
Ingrid is MAD, you guys. She’s sick of the stress and the pressure that all of her dumb decisions have caused her and her family, and she’s sick of her thighs shaking. She’s also out of cough syrup. So what does she do? She gives a grand, Bridget Jones-esque speech during a meeting with the Russian University President which (YOU WILL SERIOUSLY NEVER BELIEVE THIS) convinces the president to agree to the internationalization (it almost kills me to type that word again). Why? Because Russian’s are crazy, of course, and the only way to relate to them is to spout complete and utter nonsense. Bonus points for using the word Friendship and reminding them that your country has never been to war with theirs.
Ingrid goes home and her stupid coworker who stole the icon and started the entire mess in the first place gets credit for the whole situation. To which Ingrid is just like, “Meh.” Then magically her old house sells and she admits to her husband that she kissed a Russian Pretty Boy. Guess what though. He doesn’t even care. He thinks it’s funny. This girl definitely married the right guy.
All of this was fine and dandy and your typical run-of-the mill “Finding Yourself” novel until this gem of a quote:
“And even though it felt like I had worked through something in Russia, it all reverted when I returned home.”
So the moral of the story? Nothing. Except if you’re a quirky~* (i.e. an incapable, dependent, air headed) woman, make sure you marry a Norwegian man who will literally forgive you for anything. The end.