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A Fist or a Heart
2019
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Summary

The past returns with a fury for a woman coming to terms with her life in this award-winning novel by an acclaimed Icelandic author making her English-language debut.

Elín Jónsdóttir lives an isolated existence in Reykjavík, Iceland, making props and prosthetics for theatrical productions and Nordic crime flicks. In her early seventies, she has recently become fascinated with another loner, Ellen Álfsdóttir, a sensitive young playwright and illegitimate daughter of a famous writer. The girl has aroused maternal feelings in Elín, but she has also stirred discomfiting memories long packed away. Because their paths have crossed before. One doesn't remember. The other is about to forget.

Soon they'll discover all they have in common: difficult childhoods, trauma, and being outliers who have found space to breathe in creative expression. Yet the more Elín tries to connect with the young woman and unbox painful memories, the more tenuous her grasp on reality becomes.

Winner of the Icelandic Literary Prize, A Fist or a Heart is a gripping, artfully interwoven novel of power, secrets, and isolation by one of the most bracing and original voices of the author's generation.

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