Reviews for Touch : a novel

Library Journal
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In renowned Icelandic author Olafsson's first novel written in English, 74-year-old restaurateur Kristˇfer, a widower struggling with some cognitive issues, decides to close his popular restaurant as COVID begins ripping through Iceland. At the same time, he is stunned to receive a Facebook friend request from Miko, the love of his life for a few months in 1969. In her posting, Miko tells him that she is seriously ill with the virus. Back in the 1960s, Kristˇfer had quit the London School of Economics and had gone to work for Miko's father in his small but popular Japanese restaurant. Now, with the travel ban between Iceland and Japan looming, Kristˇfer flies to Tokyo to find Miko and resolve the disastrous ending of their love affair. Layer by layer, Olafsson (The Sacrament) fleshes out their beautiful, doomed story, which is tied to the lasting effects of Hiroshima. Kristˇfer's quest has the triple-threat urgency of his memory challenges, the suffocating complications of COVID protocols, and the drive to answer the mystery of Miko's sudden disappearance from his life, which nearly crushed him. VERDICT Olafsson's treatment of the vast cultural chasm between Icelander Kristˇfer, and Miko, shaped by the bombing of Hiroshima shortly before she was born, brings suspense and heartache to the reader.—Beth E. Andersen


Publishers Weekly
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Olafsson (The Sacrament) imagines how two people confronting the pandemic reconsider their futures in Reykjavik and Japan. After increasing lockdown restrictions, widower Kristˇfer Hannesson, 74, shutters his restaurant. Then he receives a friend request on Facebook from Miko Nakamura, the one who got away in the late 1960s. Miko had been hospitalized with Covid, and without telling her, Kristˇfer buys a plane ticket to Japan to see her. While waylaid in London by canceled flights, Kristˇfer decides “to confront a few things avoided thinking about.” He recalls his youth in the city when he dropped out of the London School of Economics and started working at Miko’s father’s Japanese restaurant, where he fell in love with Miko. He also wrestles with his more recent past in Iceland, including misunderstandings with his stepdaughter, how he’s blamed others for his choices, and having to accept his true feelings for his late wife. A languid tone belies the horrifying secret about why Miko and her father suddenly disappeared 50 years earlier, but the gratifying ending is hopeful. It adds up to an affecting story about the sway one’s past can hold on the present. Agent: Gloria Loomis. Watkins/Loomis Agency. (Aug.)


Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A pandemic novel reunites an Icelandic man and a Japanese woman who had lost contact for a half-century after a brief but significant romance. There is a lot going on in the mind of 75-year-old Kristˇfer, which is where most of this novel takes place. He has decided to close his successful restaurant, with Covid intensifying and no end to the lockdown in sight. He's lost his wife to an unspecified illness, and tension remains with his stepdaughter. A friend with whom he had been to school in London has just died. His brother both depends on him and nags him. And his doctor has ordered a brain scan, suspecting some cognitive issues. He tends to avoid what he would rather not confront and isn’t much for acknowledging his feelings, even to himself. As the first-person narrator, he is not the most reliable. Out of the blue he receives a Facebook message from Miko, the Japanese woman with whom he had fallen in love in London 50 years ago and who changed the course of his life before leaving him after a few months with no explanation or warning. Now she has the virus and is not sure she will survive it. In a novel that is a little too reliant on coincidence—that the death of Kristˇfer's friend from London and the reconnection with his girlfriend from London should happen concurrently—Kristˇfer decides without telling Miko that he will go see her in Japan, a journey that requires a stopover in London. It is there that he revisits his memories and recounts how he had forsaken his education, changed his life and his values during the radical late 1960s, and found his path forward after working at a restaurant with Miko that was owned by her father. They had identified with John and Yoko and explored the darker undercurrents of Hiroshima. Then she had left England, with her father, leaving no forwarding address. Why had she left? Why has she contacted him now? Will they have a future after 50 years apart? A ruminative novel that's propelled by the narrator's psychological reflections. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A pandemic novel reunites an Icelandic man and a Japanese woman who had lost contact for a half-century after a brief but significant romance.There is a lot going on in the mind of 75-year-old Kristfer, which is where most of this novel takes place. He has decided to close his successful restaurant, with Covid intensifying and no end to the lockdown in sight. He's lost his wife to an unspecified illness, and tension remains with his stepdaughter. A friend with whom he had been to school in London has just died. His brother both depends on him and nags him. And his doctor has ordered a brain scan, suspecting some cognitive issues. He tends to avoid what he would rather not confront and isnt much for acknowledging his feelings, even to himself. As the first-person narrator, he is not the most reliable. Out of the blue he receives a Facebook message from Miko, the Japanese woman with whom he had fallen in love in London 50 years ago and who changed the course of his life before leaving him after a few months with no explanation or warning. Now she has the virus and is not sure she will survive it. In a novel that is a little too reliant on coincidencethat the death of Kristfer's friend from London and the reconnection with his girlfriend from London should happen concurrentlyKristfer decides without telling Miko that he will go see her in Japan, a journey that requires a stopover in London. It is there that he revisits his memories and recounts how he had forsaken his education, changed his life and his values during the radical late 1960s, and found his path forward after working at a restaurant with Miko that was owned by her father. They had identified with John and Yoko and explored the darker undercurrents of Hiroshima. Then she had left England, with her father, leaving no forwarding address. Why had she left? Why has she contacted him now? Will they have a future after 50 years apart? A ruminative novel that's propelled by the narrator's psychological reflections. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

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