Johanna, an artist, has spent the last three decades living in the US with her husband and their son. After her husband dies, Johanna returns to her native Norway. A gallery has invited her to create a retrospective exhibition, with a new, commissioned work as its centrepiece.
Johanna rents an apartment by the fjord, and a small cabin in the woods on the outskirts of the city. As she traverses the city, back and forth between the two places, she searches for a sense of direction in the work ahead of her, and for a discovery to bridge her past to the present.
What remains of the life Johanna left behind in Norway, several decades ago? What is she expecting to find upon her return? And what if that something should choose not to appear?
Vigdis Hjorth’s novel Is Mother Dead is a riveting, immersive story about the most fundamental longings and disappointments of our lives. In her unmistakable voice, the author blends deep psychological insight and keen empathy with perspectives from art and literature. At the heart of this novel lies the question of what it means to come to terms with one’s past, when neither making amends nor letting go is an option.
'(...) an intergenerational bust-up that sends sparks flying. It’s profoundly shocking, brutally honest, and intelligently conceived. The literary exploration of the mother-daughter relationship in Is Mother Dead is both universal and courageous – and delivered with linguistic aplomb and stylistic confidence displaying Hjorth’s usual quality.'
'Vigdis Hjorth is back at her best, with a raw and painful book (…) Brave and uncompromising.'