THE MOST BEAUTIFUL STORY

“Who is that running in the middle of the night? / Oh, it’s Vera.” Vera steps out a window, eyes closed, into the snow. She glides forward, airborne, ethereal in her “light and billowy” nightgown. Her long hair flows out behind her, ensnaring a boy in pajamas from a tree branch. His eyes, like Vera’s, are closed. Vera’s hair, still flowing behind her, cradles and carries him as they fly through landscapes of folklore and ghouls. Torseter’s fine-lined drawings are loose-handed, minimalist, and eerie. Tree roots in underground caves reach out; skeletons nestle; trees wail. Readers learn, obliquely, that this is a ritual that is reenacted repeatedly. When Vera and the boy, Salander, reach the lake this time, a huge woman rises out of the water, and Vera asks her to “tell…the most beautiful story.…The one where there is so much pain, but everything is fine in the end.” Telling it, the woman brings Salander back to life. Vera can hear his heart now, and as she carries him home in her arms, “she feels his warm breath on her cheek.” His eyes never open, though, and he looks just as asleep as he’s looked all along. Readers learn almost nothing about how Salander died, only that he did die and that Vera pines for him to have been saved. Title notwithstanding, Tjønn’s piece about processing grief is mournful, closureless, and unsettling—like fresh bereavement itself. Characters have straight hair and skin the white of the page.

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