The Unseen

One wouldn’t think a book about life on a Norwegian island could be captivating but The Unseen was just that! The day to day, year to year, comings and goings of the Barroy family captivated my attention and I found myself eagerly awaiting another opportunity to get back to the story. It juxtaposed, in beautifully written detail, the unbelievable hardships imposed by the elements and yet the starkly mesmerizing beauty of this fragile and isolated island in the middle of the northern sea.

Told from the perspective of Ingrid Barroy, for whose family the island is named, we watch as she and her kin overcome tremendous adversity in their determination to survive life on this seemingly barren island and in doing so, fall into a beautiful cyclical rhythm of life affirming routines and responsibilities that allow them to not only survive but to thrive.

Ingrid, her parents Hans and Maria, grandfather Martin and aunt Barbro scratch out a relatively abundant life as a result of their resourcefulness in harnessing every possible gift the island offers to them. Fishing is their main source of food and income but they augment that with eggs, down from their brood of eider ducks, and milk from their small herd of cattle. Hans has a dream to build a quay on the island to allow for larger boats to dock there which ultimately would result in closer connection and communication with the mainland, particularly the school and the Trading Post.

The story covers the span of Ingrid’s life from childhood through to her mid-20’s. During this time we are able to observe how the family copes with the devastatingly tumultuous events that help shape the future landscape of the island and its inhabitants.

Beautifully written by Roy Jacobsen and translated from Norwegian by Don Bartlett and Don Shawand. While there is no crime or intrigue in this tale, it is captivating nevertheless!

— Nancy C.