It’s hot in the capital. Extremely hot. So hot that Oslo city council shuts off the taps to save water. So hot that people leave town. And further north in the country, the forest fires are spreading. There’s a state of emergency. In a small cafe in Oslo’s Veitvet district, 37-year-old Ruth stands sweating. She works here one day a week. It’s just a shame that nobody wants hot coffee in the heatwave. In the absence of customers, Ruth tries to make friends with her colleague Sofie instead. She has become pregnant and turns to Ruth for advice about what to do.
But Ruth isn’t very comfortable with other people asking her for advice. Her psychologist sister Mari is the one who has set her the task of getting closer to other people. Mari calls Ruth a hedgehog: ‘You stick out your spines every time anybody comes near you. You’re scared other people won’t like you for who you are,’ she says. But Mari has previously called her sister an ostrich, a chameleon and even an earthworm without leaving Ruth any the wiser.
Human contact has always been difficult for Ruth: once upon a time there was a friend, Gro, who shared everything with her. And there was a grandmother who loved to take Ruth to the funfair, who had soft hands and used to stroke the back of her grandchild’s hand when things got difficult. All this has gone, and Ruth now lives a stagnant life without much intimacy or socialising.
Regards, Ruth is a subtle novel full of humorous and disturbing contrasts. Adopting a unique narrative voice, Ingrid Tørresvold conjures up a warm and tender portrait of Ruth and everything that is so difficult in her life, as the heat around her becomes more and more oppressive.
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