‘Not coming home.’

After thirty two years together, Bea thinks her marriage is rock solid. She believes that as their love was born from the darkest days of her life, they’ve already survived the worst life can throw at them, but when Niklas disappears after a minor argument, she’s stunned to learn that he believes their marriage is over. Why?

What’s it about?

Does divorce ever really come out of the blue? asks Moa Herngren. I found this a genuinely interesting question as I have had several friends over the last five or so years who seem to have shared one key aspect of Bea’s experience. They believed in their marriages, but all of a sudden, their husbands didn’t. Their husbands had emotionally left and by the time they bothered to inform their wives of this fact, they had lost any interest they might have had in returning. The why and the how seemed impossible to answer, especially in the shock of disbelief. Here, then, is an opportunity to understand a similar unravelling.

Herngren opens with Bea’s perspective and Bea is angry. Furious, resentful and trapped in her hot apartment because Niklas forgot to book ferry tickets, she rages at him over text and is bewildered when he doesn’t respond. As her confusion grows, her anger keeps pace, and though she’s clearly not the easiest person to live with, it’s obvious that Niklas’s behaviour is unacceptable. He simply removes himself from her life, and after a few weeks Bea learns he’s seeing someone else.

Just as the reader has fully settled into the well established narrative of the suddenly awful ex-husband, Herngren switches to Niklas’s point of view and we see his earlier attempts to submit his happiness to Bea’s. We experience his overwhelm and overwork, and Bea’s incredibly dismissive attitude towards his ideas and feelings.

Aha, the reader may think, we’ve found the real culprit now, but then Herngren begins to alternate perspectives, highlighting the different ways Bea and Niklas frame and experience each new friction as they disentangle their lives – and reflect on how their relationship began.

What’s it like?

Incredibly sad, with an accuracy that will make readers flinch. Yes, I thought while reading, I understand why they feel that way and I understand why they are saying / doing that, and I would possibly say / do that in that situation…but I really want them not to do it!

The heart of this couple’s problems is summed up concisely by the the blurb: ‘He’s not talking. She’s not listening.’ This is where I wanted to shake them both.

Even when Bea forces Niklas to visit a marriage counsellor, she can’t be quiet long enough to listen to what he’s saying.

Even when Niklas feels completely exhausted, he doesn’t share this with the one person he should.

And therein lies the problem with this notion that the husband and wife are both ‘at fault’; instead of trying to make Bea listen, Niklas finds another woman who ‘frees’ him. It’s telling, I think, that Herngren shows Niklas meeting the other woman but doesn’t show any moments of infidelity. This omission helps to ensure both partners appear equally culpable as things fall apart, but Bea didn’t opt out of her marriage; Niklas did.

Final thoughts

This was a compelling read, the characters and situations completely convincing and painfully realised. Towards the end of the book I was very worried about Bea, but there’s an abrupt lurch in time at the end and – a bit like Niklas’ new relationship – suddenly, everything is quite different. It is completely satisfying in terms of the story arc, but I would have liked to see a little more of how that point was reached.

Overall, this was a gripping family drama, a compassionate dissection of a fraught divorce, with small reveals gradually developing our understanding of the problems at the heart of a fatally flawed relationship.


‘the Divorce’,
Moa Herngren,
2024, Manilla Press, Hardback
Many thanks to the author, publisher and Anne Cater’s Random Things Tours for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review and a spot on the blog tour.

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