There’s a house in Slovakia within whose walls lurk your greatest fears, whatever those may be. Of the people who’ve been inside, Boris tells his friend Karl, some emerged relieved and joyful, while others never recovered: one turned gray and died, another threw himself under a train. This isn’t the kind of story Boris should really be telling Karl, a middle-aged Norwegian dentist who is living through his own greatest fear: the suicide of his teenage son. “A thousand times a day I forgot that Ole-Jakob was dead,” Karl explains in the book’s opening paragraph. “A thousand times a day I remembered it again. Both were unbearable.” The author took his own life in 2012, not long after this book was first published in his native Norway, leading the reader to wonder how much of the pain in these pages is Karl’s and how much Saeterbakken’s. In Karl’s case, it’s not always easy to sympathize. Before Ole-Jakob’s death, Karl runs off with a younger woman, only to decide she isn’t what he wants after all. He slinks home to a “haughty” wife and a son who barely speaks to him: “The only thing he could use me for now was to ensure he didn’t end up like me himself.” In the wake of the suicide, Karl leaves again, this time making his way to that house in Slovakia, where the last part of the book is set. These chapters are both nightmarish and dreamlike, a solipsistic despair mixed with sunny visions of “everything the way it could have been. Us, together, for all eternity.” Saeterbakken entices the reader along some dark paths from which, in the end, there is no easy escape.