In the waning days of the German occupation of Norway, Karin and her husband move from Oslo to a tiny village in the south, with their young son. There, they aim to live out their dream of caring for those who can’t look after themselves. They have spent months building a modest house with rooms for patients, and it’s soon filled, with three adult men who are psychologically unstable—including Karin’s uncle, Josef, who suffered a head injury in a carriage accident—and five siblings whose parents have been declared unfit, and who spur much conversation in the village. This small and idiosyncratic community persists for nearly three decades.
After his parents’ deaths, the son returns to clean out this unusual home. The objects of his childhood retain a talisman-like power over him, and key items—an orange crate where he and his sister Tone slept as infants, Josef’s medal of honor, his mother’s beloved piano, and many others—unlock vivid memories. In recounting the ways that the five siblings both are and are not a part of his family, he reveals his special relationship with Ingrid, who cannot speak, and Tone’s accidental death, which occurred when they were playing together, and its quiet yet tragic effects on the extended family.
With deep compassion and gentle humor, Gaute Heivoll portrays an unconventional family as it navigates an uncertain and often unkind world.