Stockholm

Books

Having a group of friends means getting up to hijinks. Even hiding the dead body of a friend and pretending he’s still alive, and therefore eligible to win a Nobel prize, can be a fun group activity, as Noa Yedlin proves in her latest novel—though results may vary.

Stockholm begins in Israel, where Avishay has passed away a week before the Nobel Prize announcements, for which he’s been in the running due to his work in economics. His four closest friends, Zohara, Yehuda, Nili and Amos, think that if they pretend he’s still alive, Avishay could go down in history. What follows is a madcap adventure filled with laughs and tears and the kind of under-your-skin frustration that only your closest friends can give you.

The complex dynamics among the friends make for a slew of hitches in their already improbable scheme. Zohara is the one to discover Avishay’s body using the key he gave her to his apartment because they were not-so-secret lovers. Then, Yehuda hatches the plan to pretend Avishay is alive for another week, claiming that it is out of love for his friend while neglecting to mention that it would benefit him. Nili frequently decries her status as the fifth wheel of the group, and no one does much to assuage her anxieties. Meanwhile, Amos was in an unspoken, career-long competition with Avishay and has mixed feelings about the whole affair. He questions whether Avishay’s work really warrants the fame—and extensive Wikipedia entry—given to the dead man. As the four surviving friends fake texts and ward off visitors, their bond is put to the test and decades of pent-up feelings erupt in a single week.

Yedlin makes these characters and their friendship incredibly real, and this absurd plot often feels more like that of a thriller. So much is at stake in every scene—not just the Nobel Prize but years of memories, trust and love. Though each character has a distinct voice and is given plenty of room to develop, the novel is best when the four of them come together. Witnessing their hilarious banter and inside jokes, readers won’t feel left out; they’ll be glad for a glimpse of this friendship, with all its tension and tenderness.

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