Forty-year-old Elling, victim of a wildly overactive imagination, has spent his entire life secured under his mother's thumb. However, when she dies Elling is left without the first idea of how to look after himself so he admits himself into the very helpful Broynes Rehabilitation Centre where he meets and befriends fellow inmate Kjell Bjarne. After a short stint at Broynes, Elling and Kjell Bjarne return to Oslo where they start their new lives together as room-mates on a quest to become normal average people. But the real world is fraught with fears that they must first learn to conquer; answering the telephone for one, leaving the house for another and the journey outdoors is by no means an easy one. By the end of the novel Kjell has found himself a girlfriend, albeit a pregnant drunk, the upstairs neighbour Reidun, and Elling has discovered his love for poetry, in the pursuit of which he makes friends with an elderly poet. Finally both men are on their way to a more normal life. Told with deceptively simple language, gentle quirky comedy, and wonderful characters this offers a surprisingly profound view of the world.
Ingvar Ambjornsen was born in 1956 and is considered one of the most important contemporary Norwegian writers as well as one of the most popular. Alongside his comic series of four Elling novels, he has also written some more literary novels and children's books. He was won several literary prizes in Norway.