Rarely can one find a novel as predictable as Linda Olsson’s Sonata for Miriam.
The last thing Adam Ankler’s teenage daughter, Miriam, tells him before she dies is to have an adventure. He complies by going to a local museum, which conveniently has an old letter that catches his eye. It was written from a loving sister searching for her long lost brother who fled Poland during World War II. The brother just happens to have Adam’s birth name and be from the same town where Adam was born. Could it be a long lost father? One year following his daughter’s death, Adam embarks on a journey to Europe to find out.
The first 200 pages are written from Adam’s perspective writing to Cecelia about this journey. He hasn’t seen Cecelia for 19 years. While they were dating, she became pregnant. Upon Miriam’s conception, Cecelia had given Adam a choice. He could keep the baby or he could continue dating Cecelia, but he could not have both of them. When he chose the baby, Cecelia gave birth and disappeared from their lives.
This is a peculiar ultimatum for a pregnant woman to make. Yet, there are no arguments or discussions. Adam simply makes his choice. When the point of view switches to Cecelia’s for the last third of the book, it would have been a great opportunity for introspection. Yet, she doesn’t want to think or talk about Miriam. She merely goes on about how much she loves Adam.
Changing point of view so far into the story is jarring and disruptive. It would have been all right if Cecelia’s point of view showed something interesting or unlocked some mystery that the reader wouldn’t otherwise find out through Adam’s perspective. However, the characters come together at the end. There is nothing substantial that couldn’t be discovered through Adam’s perspective by a more skilled writer.
The mysterious circumstances of Adam’s birth are predictable. The romance is predictable. Everything seems to work a little too perfectly.
The characters are pawns moving across a chessboard to further the plot. There is never opposition between characters or character growth. Adam blames himself for never telling his daughter about her mother, but that is all for the character’s self implication. He never blames Cecelia.
Meanwhile, the biggest questions that this book raises remain unanswered. Why did Cecelia give Adam the ultimatum? Has she ever regretted not knowing her daughter? How did Miriam die?
Sonata for Miriam is Linda Olsson’s second novel. Many reviewers raved about her debut novel Astrid & Veronica for its beauty and emotional depth. Olsson was born in Stockholm, Sweden, lived in various countries and finally settled in New Zealand. As a result, her descriptions of different countries are well done. However, they’re not enough to save the novel.
Olsson’s writing is crisp and clear but nothing extraordinary. Sometimes it can become cliché, especially during the scenes where Adam and Cecelia think about their romance.
This would have been a more enjoyable read if the characters were more fleshed out, the plot less predictable and some of the novel’s major questions were answered.