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Beautiful Affliction

December 22, 2015

I feel I want to call your attention to a book I just finished reading – at 4:30 AM yesterday. Yes, it was hard to put it down. I could just say that the book is a wonderful read and stop there. But the experience I had was of the unusual sort, so I’d like to expand on that.

The title is Beautiful Affliction. The author is Lene Fogelberg. She partly describes her upbringing in Kungsbacka, Sweden – where I live. The places she depicts, I know them. However, she paints these places in totally different colors than I would have, showing me with vivid imagination what I have missed all the years I’ve lived here.

The pattern goes on to Lene and her family. I know them also. Well, acquaintance is probably a better word, although I thought a had a fairly good grasp of Lene’s husband Anders and her parents. But I soon found out that behind all those familiar faces a rich story of struggle, hope, and love was hidden. Makes me stop to think; what about all the people I meet from day to day? What’s their story? What are their Goliath’s and what are their joys? And who takes time to see it? In fact, not only don’t we see, but we often place judgement based on outward appearance, missing to see the real person inside – something Lene can tell us a great deal about in the book.

The reason why I initially wanted to read this book was because of Lene’s condition: she was diagnosed with a fatal congenital heart disease. Just as our firstborn son. He has now turned eighteen but has over the years been subjected to several open-heart surgeries. What Lene describes in the rooms and corridors of the hospital I know something about (as much as can be known from the outside): the anticipative conversations with cardiologists and surgeons (and seeing them as saviors); the Intensive Care Unit; the tubes and wires attached to a frail body; the scars, the blood; the beeping machines; and yes, the careful moisturizing of our sons lips so they won’t crack during anesthesia. We lived off and on for months at the hospital, and all of that came back when I read the book. Partly hard memories, yes, but important to revisit. If nothing else, it made me appreciate the gift of life even more.

So what if you don’t live in Kungsbacka, know the author, and have no experience with heart surgery? Is this still a book for you? Yes. Unequivocally YES! Simply because Lena Fogelberg is an amazing author, and she has a captivating story to tell. And she does just that: captivates you. Lene also has a fresh and unique style of writing, and her depictions are stunning; she has a perception of her surroundings that is sharp yet sensitive and you feel as though you have entered her heart and mind on more than a few occasions.

I also found myself deeply affected by the strong contrasts of light and darkness, and the victor being light, of course, in the end. Or should I say love? Because the book is truly a love story. I won’t give much away, but let’s just say there will be many tears shed. And female readers will undoubtedly turn to their husbands after the reading the book and say: “Why can’t you be more like Anders (Lene’s husband)”? Surely, he is a good example to follow.

I predict we will hear more from Lene in the near future. I personally look forward to it. But while you wait for that to happen, get a copy of Beautiful Affliction now. Or why not as a give-away. It would make the perfect Christmas gift.

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