Johan has bargained with Death for years: when he was a boy, he prayed that Death take his father, not his mother; when he was a man, Death kindly removed his wife, Alice, allowing him to marry Mai, the love of his life. Now, Death has come for him, and Johan needs to strike one last bargain: when the moment arrives, he wants Mai to promise that she will help him on his way out of the world. Johan has been mainly a paragon of mediocrity; it is only through his love for Mai that he has seen the greater possibilities that life can sometimes offer. He is determined that his passing will be dignified, controlled - perhaps even comforting. But when the time comes, and Mai has finally agreed to help him, he is no longer sure even that he has asked the right question. His deathbed is not as he imagined. His life - as a husband, lover and father - was never what it could have been. And why is it exactly, he wonders, that his one true love has agreed to be his angel of death? Linn Ullmann's haunting novel portrays a passionate love affair and asks difficult questions about life, love and death.
Finally, in prose of cool precision, deep insight and dark wit, it illustrates how the most ordinary of lives can, in the end, be unexpectedly touched by grace. 'Ullmann is a fine writer, complex, intelligent and scrupulous. The drama of private life, and of the here and now, continues to require voices such as hers' - "Daily Telegraph".
Linn Ullmann is a graduate of New York University, where she studied English literature. She returned to her native Oslo in 1990, where she now lives with her husband and children and works as a journalist and literary critic.