In Welcome to America, Linda Boström Knausgård's second novel (her first published in the U.S.), young Ellen struggles against her own maturation. After the death of her father, Ellen decides to stop speaking to anyone. She blames herself for her father's death after having silently wished it many times, and she fears her future with her intense, explosive brother and narcissistic, flippant mother. While her mother and brother seemingly find ways to move forward, the dark underbelly of their family--her brother's emotional abuse, her mother's self-absorption and inability to face the imperfect truths of her life, the history of her father's mental illness--remains unchanged.
Sparse, sleek and exacting, Boström Knausgård's prose mimics the childlike view at the center of the novel, just as it allows Ellen a mature voice. There is an uncanniness to this perspective. It is both young and old, all-knowing and continuously limited, yearning and terrified. Often, Ellen focuses on her perceived connection to God in conjunction with her disconnection from those around her, who she believes act "as if I didn't exist." While the novel is written as one continuous meditation on the inner workings of a family, the true arc of its tale depends on Ellen's devastatingly futile desire not to grow up: "the whole idea of growing up felt completely wrong. I wasn't going to let it happen." Stalled in this perpetual desire for childhood--or, really, suspicion of adulthood--Ellen provides a haunting and evocative portrait of the process of trauma and the awareness of personal isolationism, even within the structures of faith and family. --Alice Martin, freelance writer and editor