11/12/2012 12:55 pm ET

'The Elephant Keepers' Children' By Peter Høeg: The Book We're Talking About This Week

The Elephant Keepers' Children by Peter Høeg
Other Press, $27.95
October 23, 2012

What is it about?
Peter is a 14-year-old boy who lives with his siblings on the fictional Danish island of Finø. When his parents go missing, he and his remarkable sister Tilte try to track them down. It’s an entertaining and engaging farce with teenage protagonists that combines examinations of religion and spirituality with slapstick adventure.

Why are we talking about it?
It’s been twenty years since Høeg’s unique detective story Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow became a literary hit. This book shows that book was no fluke, as it succeeds in being extremely funny while also wrestling with deeper philosophical questions about the role of religion in society and individual choice.

Who wrote it?
Peter Høeg is a Danish writer who does few interviews and press events. Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow was a huge hit, and was turned into a movie starring Julia Ormond and Gabriel Byrne.

Who will read it?
Fans of intelligent first-person YA, modern-day farce, and literary novels that are artfully delivered with a lightness of touch.

What do the reviewers say?
The Guardian: “The hilarity of Peter Finø's narrative makes this a delightful novel even for readers who have limited tolerance of surrealism. “

Boston Globe: "Where 'Smilla' was a chilling thriller, The Elephant Keepers’ Children is stranger, an oddball caper blended with a coming-of-age story."

Impress your friends:
There are more than 400 islands in Denmark, 70 of which are populated. One of them, Jordsand, was populated until the 1890s, but a series of storms led the population to leave, and a hundred years later, it was completely submerged by the sea.

Opening line:
“I have found a door out of the prison. It opens out onto freedom. I am writing this to show you that door.”

Typical passage:
"Perhaps you know the feeling from your own family that the only thing in the world to be happy about is that your parents have been released from jail on account of the prosecutor being unable to find sufficient evidence to bring charges, and that their latest escapade has not yet reached the front page of the national newspapers because the people who were the victims of their fraud have been keeping it secret due to fear of ridicule?

"In case you don’t know what that feels like, I can tell you that it means you proceed with caution and speak in a hushed voice so that the crystal in the cabinet doesn’t suddenly shatter, and it is a time in which you sit pale and silent at the dinner table and prod at your food, even if it happens to be Father’s fish rissoles."



Editors Picks: Best Books 2012