Welcome to America
Longlisted for ALTA’s National Translation Award 2020
Finalist for the Best Translated Book Award 2020
A family on the brink of silence
Ellen has stopped talking. She thinks she may have killed her dad. Her brother’s barricaded himself in his room. Their mother, a successful actress, carries on as normal. We’re a family of light! she insists. But darkness seeps in everywhere and in their separate worlds each of them longs for togetherness. Welcome to America is an exquisite portrait of a sensitive, strong-willed child in the throes of trauma, a family on the brink of implosion, and the love that threatens to tear them apart.
Linda Boström Knausgård
Linda Boström Knausgård (Sweden) is an author and poet, as well as a producer of documentaries for Swedish radio. Her first novel, The Helios Disaster, was awarded… Read more
Book Club Questions
- Why does Ellen decide to stop speaking, and what do you think she hopes to achieve?
- Can you describe the relationship between Ellen and her mother?
- Ellen’s brother features somewhat less in the story. Can you describe a little how you imagine his experience of coping with his grief to be?
- Do you think Ellen’s mother and the school are dealing with Ellen in the right way? Why, why not?
- What would help Ellen?
- When, if at all, is Ellen happy?
- What do you imagine for Ellen in the future; will she speak again?
- Are there moments in the novel where you can see that Ellen wants to speak? What happens in these moments?
- Did Ellen have a good relationship with her father? Does she miss him?
- What is the significance of the book’s title?
- Boström writes in a very poetic and hypnotic style; how do you think this adds to the experience of the novel?
- Have you read any similar books before (for example, first-person monologues)? If so, how do they compare? If not, would you consider it now?
“Here, restraint and ambiguity prevail, whether it’s about the intensity of the abuse Ellen sustained or the veracity of her assertions. Regardless, it’s a taut portrait of how difficult it can be to reconcile ideals about faith and family with their messier realities. An intense, recursive book that evokes the chill despair of a Bergman film.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Knausgärd is an impressive writer, and she has created a unique, powerful lead in a world all her own.” —Publishers Weekly
“A piercing story of a girl who responds to trauma by mustering the most powerful weapon available to her: silence. (…) melodic, mythological, transformative, a testament to literature’s powers… ” —Vanity Fair
“Knausgård’s story of a family in crisis is shocking and imaginative. Everything is written in beautiful and sparse prose which suggests that, after all, from darkness comes light.” —JURY, AUGUST PRIZE
“Knausgård’s artistry is masterful.” —Bookslut
“A singular and thought-provoking story with a child narrator you won’t soon forget.” —Book Riot
“Welcome to America presents itself as an étude in the musical sense of the term: a basic theme that varies to infinity, acquiring with each new variation a new unprecedented facet. A triumph.” —Le Monde
“With each sentence of her novella, Knausgaard gives a spare and poetic accounting of her narrator’s silent days…Together, they mark something quite lovely.” —CATHERINE HOLMES, The Charleston Post and Courier
“Every word is there for a reason.” —Minn Post
“A tender novel about a mute girl: gentle, sensitive, minimal, concise, subtle, and brutal. This is writing as self-defense and liberation.” —VOLKER WEIDERMANN, Spiegel
“Outstanding psychological chamber play. Linda Boström Knausgård has an incredible ability to give voice to the young narrator’s haunting thoughts and she does it through such dense prose that is both simple and powerful, both tangible and poetic.” —Politiken
“Boström Knausgård has her own poetic language. The imagery is just as natural and brilliant as it is mad and askew.” —Dagbladet
Why You Should Read This Book
‘Silence, or not speaking, is a theme I recognize from my own childhood. To speak and then suddenly not speak―I’ve experienced that. As a child I fantasized about not speaking when I was angry at my mother: “I won’t say a word, not a word!” But I didn’t have the strength that Ellen in the book has. I held out two or three days at most, and it felt good. But then life carried on. After I coined the phrase “It’s a long time already since I stopped talking” the story just fell into place.’
LINDA BOSTRÖM KNAUSGÅRD, the author
‘What struck me as I translated The Helios Disaster was what a great deal happens in the tale, even as the book remains a compact one hundred or so pages. The prose is exacting and tight, making it a joy and a challenge to render into English. I also appreciate the many small details that give the reader a sense of time and place, from the embroidery at the craft store to the boiled cod and peas of the psychiatric unit. As a reader, I remain intrigued and thrilled by the mystery of the end of the novel, and its implications for everything that came before in Anna’s story.’
MARTIN AITKEN, the translator
‘While some writers require hundreds of pages and even several volumes to let the reader enter their inner world, Linda Boström Knausgård needs few words to draw us into a universe both mythical and disturbing, and at the same time as tangible and real as if we were experiencing it with our own senses. Hers is a passionate universe of sadness and silence, and her writing is exceptionally intense, pure, and poetic. The literature of Boström Knausgård is dark, tough, and vulnerable―it is all these things, and more. This novel takes one deep into the world of depression and madness, and captivates from the inside.’
JUDITH UYTERLINDE, the publisher