Book Review: Norwegian by Night by Derek B. Miller (5/5)

12 Apr

I love when a book club read knocks it out of the park for me. I get so excited to go to the meeting and I try to convince a few other people to read the book and join me because I’m sure they’ll love it, too. This was one of those books and I’m so glad it was selected for us to read.

Cover image via Goodreads.com

Cover image via Goodreads.com

Norwegian by Night by Derek B. Miller

Summary from Goodreads:

He will not admit it to Rhea and Lars – never, of course not – but Sheldon can’t help but wonder what it is he’s doing here..

Eighty-two years old, and recently widowed, Sheldon Horowitz has grudgingly moved to Oslo, with his grand-daughter and her Norwegian husband. An ex-Marine, he talks often to the ghosts of his past – the friends he lost in the Pacific and the son who followed him into the US Army, and to his death in Vietnam.

When Sheldon witnesses the murder of a woman in his apartment complex, he rescues her six-year-old son and decides to run. Pursued by both the Balkan gang responsible for the murder, and the Norwegian police, he has to rely on training from over half a century before to try and keep the boy safe. Against a strange and foreign landscape, this unlikely couple, who can’t speak the same language, start to form a bond that may just save them both.

Wow. I was not expecting that. This book grabbed my shirt in its fist and ran with me. It was a part murder mystery, thriller, war novel, and very psychological. It took me a while to figure out how Sheldon’s mind worked, what was true and what was in his head. Once I did, I loved the parts he’d narrate. I wanted to know more about Paul as he was easily my favorite character for no reason than I was rooting for him. Great novel overall and I’m really recommending this one.

Sheldon reminded me of my grandfather. He was very realistic in the way he had memory lapses and suffered from physical limitations but he was so smart and his age didn’t dull that. I liked that about Sheldon. As much as Rhea and Lars discredited him and the police though catching an old man and a boy would be easy, he consistently outsmarted everyone and I would say he won in the end.

As much as I liked Sheldon, Paul was my favorite character. It’s hard to guess what was going through his head the whole time and he was brave beyond reason. I wondered if he was deaf with how little noise he made and how he never talked.  There was a lot I didn’t know about Paul, but I still loved him. I thought it was great how much he enjoyed dressing up like a Viking with Sheldon. It was such a perfect moment for a boy and I loved seeing him happy if just for those few minutes.

In a small way, I could relate to Rhea. I have older grandparents that live in California (I’m in Michigan) and I’m constantly worried about them. I can’t imagine how worried Rhea was after she moved to Norway and was so far away from Sheldon. I can understand wanting to move him closer to her and the burden that would be. I wish there had been a little more from her in the book, but I understand that she wasn’t the focus.

Derek B. Miller Image via The Times

Derek B. Miller
Image via The Times

The ending was great. I absolutely loved seeing Sheldon in his element years after the fact. I thought it was good for us to see him prove that he was a sniper and that he knew what he was doing in a combat situation. I thought the ending was exactly what it needed to be and I appreciated Miller’s ability to finish a story with just enough fact to satisfy me as a reader. Again, I was blown away.

I didn’t enjoy revisiting Saul in Vietnam. I thought it was a bit much, especially with all of the revisiting Korea that Sheldon did, too. I understand why the flashbacks were necessary, I just thought it was a bit much. I could have done with a little less blowing up and a little more Paul.

 

Sheldon was ready to sacrifice anything for family. After losing his son and his wife and a great-grandchild, he felt his family was slipping away from him and I think it hurt him more than he let on. He was primed to look at Paul as another member of his family, willing to include the small boy who represented both his lost son and lost great-grandchild. I thought it was great how Sheldon took care of Paul so well. He wasn’t as far removed from raising children as most men his age because of Rhea and he fit the role well.

Writer’s Takeaway: I’ve seen a lot of writers trip up when trying to write a character who doesn’t have a complete grip on reality. I thought Miller did it extremely well. It was clear when Sheldon was talking to God and when he was talking to someone who was really there. I thought the ending was really impactful in this way. It was very obvious how upsetting the whole event was for him and how ready he was to sacrifice everything for Paul and Rhea. I think choosing a character we knew to be dead made it very obvious when Sheldon was in his own world. I found this much clearer than when I read The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey a while back.

 

A great read and one I can’t wait to discuss with the book club. Five out of Five stars.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Related Posts:
Norwegian by Night by Derek B. Miller: A Review | Scandinavian Crime Fiction
Norwegian by Night by Derek B. Miller | Dulwich Books Review
“Norwegian by Night” by Derek B. Miller | Karen’s Two Sentence Book Club Reviews
BOOK CHEWING: My Interview with Derek B. Miller Author of NORWEGIAN BY NIGHT | Bite the Book

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2 Responses to “Book Review: Norwegian by Night by Derek B. Miller (5/5)”

  1. Mari April 12, 2016 at 11:17 AM #

    Sam – I could not agree more!!! LOVED this book!

    Like

    • Sam April 12, 2016 at 2:21 PM #

      Glad to hear it! I can’t wait to discuss next week.

      Like

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