The undiscover’d country, from whose bourn
No traveler returns, – HAMLET
Lin Enger’s debut novel is a modern take on Hamlet, but with a few differences from the original. Even though I’m very familiar with the play, I found that Undiscovered Country surprisingly kept me in suspense throughout. There were just enough differences to keep me more than interested in the novel.
Set in wintry Minnesota, Jesse finds his father in the woods — dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. While the local law enforcement thinks it’s a closed case, Jesse refuses to believe that his father committed suicide and sets out to prove it. Of course there’s a suspicious uncle in the story as well as an ‘Ophelia’, but it doesn’t always follow the ’script,’ so there is that element of suspense to the tale.
Enger’s descriptions of the starkly cold winters in Minnesota really add to the atmosphere of the book, and his writing of the characters, though familiar, seem very real. We feel Jesse’s angst, just as we did Hamlet’s. We want justice, just as we do in Shakespeare’s play. I would love to read and compare this book to The Story of Edgar Sawtelle and The Dead Father’s Club, both also modern retellings of the famous play.
Lin Enger is the brother of Leif Enger, who wrote Peace Like a River, which I loved, and also So Brave, Young, and Handsome, which I hope to read sometime this year. I’ll definitely keep an eye out for Lin Enger’s next novel as well.
2008, 304 pp.