‘Mirror, Shoulder, Signal’ by Dorthe Nors

My rating: 3 stars

The ending of a book can irrevocably transform our opinion on it. I was enjoying reading Mirror, Shoulder, Signal by the Danish writer Dorthe Nors almost until its conclusion. However, when I reached the last pages, I couldn’t help but feel that the story was incomplete. The main character is a woman in her early forties, Sonja, who is struggling to learn to drive a car. While being shown occurrences from her daily life, we are offered glimpses from her past and come to understand that this is a story about loneliness and lost family bonds.

Sonja is at first being taught to drive by Jytte. Although she passed the theory part without difficulty, the practice is not going well. Six months have passed and she is still not able to shift gears by herself. So, she decides to speak with Folke, the owner of the driving school, in order to change instructors. She doesn’t believe Jytte to be the appropriate teacher for an older woman. He ends up accepting to be the one to teach her how to drive. Accounts of her driving lessons are interspersed with other moments from her life. Sonja is translating a crime novel and goes to a therapeutic massagist, Ellen, who invites her to go hiking and meditate with a group of women.

Despite the plot not being too beguiling, I was surprisingly enjoying following the main character’s thoughts and actions. The writing style being fluid was one of the reasons for my initial appreciation. I was also intrigued by Sonja’s past, particularly her relationship with her older sister, Kate. They used to be really close, but they don’t speak on a regular basis any longer. She believes her sister to be scared of her.

It’s not only the driving lessons that are a challenge to Sonja. She is also struggling to move on with her life. In spite of having been living in Copenhagen for a while, she is constantly remembering her life in the countryside. She misses her family but seems unable to reconnect with them. Her insecurities stem from feeling inadequate.

Reading this book was an enjoyable experience cut short. The ending is too abrupt and unfulfilling. Interesting glimpses from Sonja’s past and relationships are left underdeveloped. Mirror, Shoulder, Signal had the potential to be a stimulating reflection on a woman’s life, but it resembled more the beginning of a bigger story.


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