Review: Icelandic author pens an uplifting book on suicide

‘Hotel Silence,” the latest novel from Icelandic author Auour Ava Olafsdottir, is a quirky, uplifting book about suicide and depression. That’s right: Did I mention it was quirky?

Set in present-day Iceland, the book opens with Jonas Ebeneser, a 6-foot-tall, 185-pound middle aged handyman getting a tattoo of a white lily on his chest. “We’ll have to shave the hair first,” the tattoo artist says to him. “Otherwise your flower will be lost in the darkness of a forest.”

After learning from his ex-wife that his daughter isn’t his, Jonas falls into an existential tailspin. Getting a tattoo doesn’t help. Neither does visiting his senile mother in the nursing home — she’s obsessed with war and death — or chatting with his friend Svanur, a man who monologues about two topics: motorized vehicles and the deplorable status of women in the world.

“Did you know that women do 90 percent of all the work on earth but only own 1 percent of its assets? And what do men do in the meantime?”

He doesn’t wait for an answer and continues.

“They dawdle, get drunk and wage war.”

Convinced of the meaninglessness of it all, Jonas decides on suicide. But to spare his family the chore of finding his body he buys a one-way ticket to an unnamed country where war is a recent memory and land mines pepper the tourist sites. Armed with just a change of clothes and a toolbox, Jonas gives himself one week to complete his task.

But at the hotel he meets Fifi and May, a brother/sister duo who run the war-torn facility on sheer gumption, as well as May’s young son, who runs up and down the corridor, often in and out of occupied hotel rooms, with a makeshift cape around his neck.

Together they form a motley crew united in their quest to refurbish the hotel, as well as their lives, and Jonas begins to see his scars in a new way.


A charming, heartfelt novel about one man turning back toward the light, “Hotel Silence” is a memorable work.



Recent sunny skies and warmer than normal temperatures might make you think spring has come early to Eastern Iowa, but don't be fooled. No mater how warm the weather has been lately or how much it feels like spring, it's still Feb ...

Tom Miller's debut novel, 'The Philosopher's Flight,' introduces us to Robert Weekes, a young man determined to overcome the limits inherent in being male in order to join an elite squad of women devoted to rescue and evacuation. ...

Give us feedback

Have you found an error or omission in our reporting? Tell us here.

Do you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.