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The Greenhouse

The Greenhouse
Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir
Las Vegas
English translations
Review Author
Björn Halldórsson

(Afleggjarinn, 2007)

Reeling from his mother’s sudden passing in a fatal car crash, Lobbi leaves Iceland behind, taking with him three offcuts of her rare, eight-petaled Rosa Candida. His destination is a monastery in a distant land.

Once there, he intends to plant his mother’s roses in the monastery’s famous rose garden, where he has accepted a position as a gardener, in the hope of finding the peace and quiet he needs to heal. In Iceland, he leaves behind his octogenarian father and autistic brother, and something else as well: a seed that was planted one night in his mother’s greenhouse, when he made love to Anna – a friend of a friend and virtual stranger. His attempt to escape the world and its sorrows is thwarted when Anna turns up at the monastery with his infant daughter, Flóra Sól, in tow, asking that Lobbi shoulder his share of the responsibility for bringing a new life into the world.

In Auður Ava’s books, you can often find a counterbalance to aggressive forms of toxic masculinity that are commonly either glamorised or deplored in contemporary fiction. Instead, her male characters tend to display other, more positive but much less dramatic masculine traits: self-sacrifice, tenderness and responsibility. At its heart, The Greenhouse is a very simple story about the healing powers of family and community and the formation of a paternal bond.