Perhaps because Iceland often feels more like a small town than a country, Icelandic readers are quick to jump to conclusions when a local author puts out a new book, attributing characters to the writer’s friends and family or to various persons around town. When asked about her decision to set her novel Yo-Yo in Berlin, with no Icelandic characters, Steinunn Sigurðardóttir said that it was her way to write about a difficult subject, child abuse and trauma, without becoming ensconced in distracting rumours or gossip about who the characters “really were”.
Yo-Yo deals with an unlikely friendship that develops between an oncologist and one of his cancer patients, a charming drunkard with a colourful background who seems to be one of nature’s natural optimists. Despite the differences in their situation, the men experience an immediate and unexpected camaraderie, as if they were childhood friends who had found one another again. At the same time, another of the oncologist’s patients brings unwanted and long buried memories that soon start to bleed out into all aspects of the oncologist’s life.
A difficult read at times, Yo-Yo is a story of traumas inflicted in childhood and the baggage that such experiences leave people to carry throughout their lives. However, it is also a story of survival; of overcoming your past by connecting to the people in your present.