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The Undesired

The Undesired
Yrsa Sigurðardóttir
Minotaur Books
New York
English translations
Review Author
Björn Halldórsson

(Kuldi, 2012)

The Undesired is a stand-alone thriller that, much like Yrsa’s 2010 novel I Remember You, mixes the neo-gothic atmosphere of the modern ghost story with the tensions and the build of the psychological thriller. As is often the case with an Yrsa thriller, the novel follows two storylines in separate settings, but in this case the two protagonists are separated not just by location but also by about four decades.

In 2012 we meet Óðinn, a single father who has sole care of his young daughter thrust upon him due to the tragic passing of his ex-wife. As a government inspector, he finds himself looking into allegations of abuse that have recently surfaced in connection with Krókur, a remote home for troubled youths. It is his job to determine whether the boys who stayed there, now men in their fifties, have claims for reparations for the treatment they received at the home. In particular, he begins investigating the deaths of two young boys, thought to have succumbed to the elements while trying to run away. Meanwhile, in 1974, Aldís, a young caretaker at the Krókur home for troubled youths, provides a first-hand account of the disturbing events that led up to the boys’ deaths and the closing of the home.

Drawing inspiration from recent investigations into ill-treatment in Icelandic children’s homes, the book, like much of Yrsa’s work, explores traumas and secrets that are tucked away for decades under a code of silence such as is all too commonly found in small, insular societies.