“Harbor” by John Ajvide Lindqvist (Thomas Dunne Books, 2011)


From the international bestselling author of Let the Right One in and Handling the Undead comes another unique and moving tale.  Readers will wonder what Sweden is truly like during the winter, as Lindqvist sets this story on a remote island in the Swedish archipelago.  John Ajvide Lindqvist has created a thrilling, psychological horror novel in Harbor.

It seems at first that Harbor is an ordinary tale of loss, as the book opens with Anders and Cecilia living in a cute little cottage on the small island of Domarö with their adorable six-year-old daughter, Maja.  One winter afternoon, before dinner, they go on a walk across the snow onto the frozen channel.  There they discover an old lighthouse and go in to explore; they travel to the very top, looking out across the ice.  Maja says she is bored and goes back down, venturing out onto the frozen channel . . . then she disappears.  Anders and Cecilia looked away for just a second and Maja vanished.  They begin searching the ice and the area around, looking for her, calling for her, become more panicked by the minute.  A search is done over a number of days, but the little girl is never found.

The loss of Maja destroys the family and Anders and Cecilia separate.  Anders has problems getting back to any sort of normal life and spends more and more time in the cottage on the island, getting to know the people better and slowly lose his mind.  He begins to hear weird sounds and feels that the spirit of Maja is close by, but at the same time knows this cannot be true.  While it seems like Anders is just losing his mind over the loss of his daughter, and then the end of his marriage, it turns into something else as he learns more about the island of Domarö and the payment it has exacted from its inhabitants for many decades . . .

Harbor proves Lindqvist deserves to be added to the great horror writers of today, with his unique stories; normal, realistic characters; and his unforgettable depictions of the dark and terrifying places throughout Sweden that would be considered normal and quite beautiful, until he inserts one of his terrifying tales.

Originally written on November 20, 2011 ©Alex C. Telander.

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