Black Cat
Black Cat
Black Cat

Animal Life

by Audur Olafsdottir Translated from Icelandic by Brian FitzGibbon

From a winner of the Nordic Council Literature Prize and the Icelandic Literature Prize, Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir, comes a dazzling novel about a family of midwives set in the run-up to Christmas in Iceland

  • Imprint Black Cat
  • Page Count 192
  • Publication Date December 06, 2022
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-6016-4
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $17.00
  • Imprint Black Cat
  • Publication Date December 06, 2022
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-6017-1
  • US List Price $17.00

In the days leading up to Christmas, Dómhildur delivers her 1,922nd baby. Beginnings and endings are her family trade; she comes from a long line of midwives on her mother’s side and a long line of undertakers on her father’s. She even lives in the apartment that she inherited from her grandaunt, a midwife with a unique reputation for her unconventional methods.

As a terrible storm races towards Reykjavik, Dómhildur discovers decades worth of letters and manuscripts hidden amongst her grandaunt’s clutter. Fielding calls from her anxious meteorologist sister and visits from her curious new neighbor, Dómhildur escapes into her grandaunt’s archive and discovers strange and beautiful reflections on birth, death and human nature.

With her singular warmth and humor, in Animal Life Ólafsdóttir gives us a beguiling novel that comes direct from the depths of an Icelandic winter, full of hope for spring.

Tags Literary

Praise for Animal Life:

“A gorgeous, spiraling slow burn of a book… To read this book is to immerse oneself in the natural world of Iceland. Vivid descriptions of weather and landscape, animals and plants, star-filled night skies and slivers of sunrises fill the pages and are never boring… A necessary book for our time.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“Every novel by Audur Ava Olafsdottir is a multifaceted gem, with a sparkle concealing dark hues and sharp edges… [Animal Life is] a tranquil yet compelling meditation on life and death, darkness and light, from a reliably thought-provoking novelist.”—The Economist

“A subtle and stunning work for anyone who has felt the impact of an ancestor, who has lost themselves to a past that feels like their own.”—Ploughshares

“A rich slice of life.”—Publishers Weekly

“At times poetic and philosophical, Animal Life is a uniquely crafted novel that concerns itself with light and darkness, purpose and coincidence, fear and hope.”—Booklist

Praise for Miss Iceland:

Winner of the Icelandic Bookseller’s Prize

“[A] quietly mesmerizing, unsettling tale about attempting to rise from the chasms of difficult circumstances by harnessing the power of friendship and creative drive.”—NPR

“[Ólafsdóttir] does a brilliant job of conveying, sentence by sentence and word by word, the exotic nature of Icelandic life, its harshness, its connection to the land and to history, and its amusing qualities.”—Washington Post

“This quietly moving tale of friendship and artistic fulfillment will appeal to readers of Elena Ferrante and Margaret Atwood, and the unusual setting offers an interesting twist on the portrait of an artist as a young woman.”—Bookpage

“As elegantly cold and foreboding as the Icelandic landscape itself, Olafsdottir’s languid and melancholy portrait of a writer with a singular passion demonstrates the sacrifices women have always made for their art.”—Booklist

A beautiful book. It is at once a poetic, light-hearted narrative filled with endearing characters; and yet also a sharply edged social critique that is caustic and righteous in its portrayal of the enduring nature of sexism, misogyny and homophobia. Above all, it leaves the reader feeling buoyed and optimistic, despite the serious and oppressive nature of its subject matter. It’s a powerful portrayal of a woman’s struggle for freedom in the 1960s, but its true lesson is for the present, as a gorgeously crafted reminder of the tenacious nature of discrimination and hate, and the determination and commitment that is often required to overcome it.”—Popmatters

“In her sixth novel, award-winning author Ólafsdóttir paints a vivid portrait of Iceland: cold weather, volcanic eruptions, northern lights, whale hunting, darkness, sexism, and homophobia. . . . In this excellent introduction to her work, Ólafsdóttir creates a world where either escape or hiding one’s true nature are the only choices.”—Library Journal

“Ólafsdóttir’s graceful and quiet tale of feminism, alienation, and artistic expression centers around Hekla, a young Icelandic woman who wants to become a writer in a male-dominated literary world… Ólafsdóttir tenderly explores how these authentic characters help each other overcome their fears and doubts. This winning tale of friendship and self-fulfillment will inspire readers.”—Publishers Weekly (starred, boxed review)

“Helka, trying to make it in the big city, a woman in 1960’s Reykjavik weighed down by expectation and constraint.  I so wanted Helka to get away and be free, to slap the hands that felt her up and to ditch the boyfriend. Only a great book can make you feel you’re really there, a thousand miles and a generation away. I loved it.”—Kit de Waal

“A potent, atmospheric story of creative frustration and fulfilment. I loved the wry, tender voice of Ólafsdóttir’s narrator. I’m now going to read all of her other novels.”—Megan Hunter

Praise for Butterflies in November:

“Anyone who’s fallen inexplicably in love with a European road-trip story will be vulnerable to this fictional journey around Iceland’s Ring Road.”—New York Magazine (“9 Books You Need to Read”)

“This picaresque novel . . . is carried by the evocation of [Iceland’s] bleak, moody beauty.”—New Yorker

“Two very unlikely travelers take a genuinely funny and gleefully manic Icelandic road trip. . . . A fresh and zany novel . . . and at its heart, is a tragicomedy rich in pathos and humor.”—Malcolm Forbes, Minneapolis Star Tribune

“A beguiling road trip tale . . . an engaging and entertaining read.”—New York Journal of Books

“A bright and blissful journey into the darkest month in Iceland. Olafsdottir repeatedly smashes our idea of the everyday, only to sew it back together in a magically surprising and beautiful embroidery. A highly original and very charming novel.”—Hallgrimur Helgason, author of The Hitman’s Guide to Housecleaning

“I can’t remember the last time I was so enchanted by a novel like I am by Butterflies in November. Zany, surprising, full of twists and turns, it left me breathless. I just love this book.”—Ann Hood, author of The Knitting Circle and The Obituary Writer

“Ólafsdóttir has created a singular heroine in Butterflies in November: unafraid, unapologetic and also unforgettable. When she enters a lottery, she wins it. When she has sex with the wrong man, she gets back into her car and keeps on driving. I loved her and this quirky, enticing novel that never stopped surprising.”—Marcy Dermansky, author of Twins and Bad Marie

“A funny, moving, and occasionally bizarre exploration of life’s upheavals and reversals.”—Financial Times

“With subtle prose and sardonic humor Olafsdottir upends expectations.”—Carmela Ciuraru, New York Times

“Quirky and enchanting . . . a tale of resilient spirits on a journey.”—Boston Globe

“[An] evocative, humorous novel. . . . The beguiling imagery captures the fragile and fleeting beauty of those loved and lost, as well as the possibilities of self reinvention; of shedding skins, growing wings.”—Observer

“A whimsical Icelandic journey. . . . There are moving moments of sadness and hilarity . . . and Olafsdottir shows a rare ability to write a serious and convincing small child; the boy’s flowering relationship with his clueless foster-carer is beautifully handled.”—Guardian