Cover Image: Touch

Touch

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Member Reviews

After reading Olaf Olafsson’s The Sacrament, I eagerly requested an ARC of his latest novel Touch.  Although it is difficult to imagine two such different novels by the same author, I cannot help feeling this is one important sign of a good writer—one clearly not trying to recreate what worked last time, one ready to try something new and capable of succeeding. 

Touch is the story of 74-year-old Icelander Kristófer Hannesson, a widower who has decided to close his Reykjavik restaurant for good during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic.  Determined to leave everything in order, he has written and revised his to-do list. He thinks about the wedding party he last hosted and the “last supper” with his employees.  After spending time paying salaries and bills and contacting creditors to request that they expedite final billing, he settles in with his coffee to check the latest online pandemic news and notices a Facebook friend request from a name that causes decades to melt away, leaving him standing by a locked door and realizing those who should have been inside have unexpectedly disappeared.
Miko Nakamura has sent the request, giving her maiden name as Takahashi and asking if he is the Kristófer Hannesson who had lived in London in 1969.  

From here, the book moves back and forth between Kristófer’s present and past.  One moment he is planning his trip to Japan, debating whether he will pack his teacup, pondering how he will explain his sudden departure to his step-daughter, flying to London where he will catch a flight to Japan, and worrying about threatened flight cancellations due to the rising coronavirus cases.  As Kristófer packs and travels, his mind returns to his university days in London, his university friends, his decision to drop out of school, and the pressures that resulted in his entering a Japanese restaurant to take a job as a dishwasher, a huge step down from his role as student in the prestigious London School of Economics.

Kristófer has no idea why Miko and her father, the Japanese restaurant owner, suddenly locked their restaurant doors and vanished. Now he is the one with a secret.  Miko had sent him a simple friend request.  He has not told her he is coming to Japan.

Although this scenario might sound far-fetched, Olaf Olafsson managed to convince me through his clever depiction of the workings of Kristófer Hannesson’s mind.

Thanks to NetGalley and Ecco/Harper Collins Publishers for an advance reader copy of this charming new novel.
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A beautifully written tale of a man looking back on his life and one particular relationship.  Lovely insights into Icelandic and Japanese cultures. Highly recommend for anyone interested in learning more about different cultures and gaining insights into political histories.
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I was so delighted to read a domestic drama that is not a light rom com but which ends on a happy and hopeful note. The sensitivity of the main characters is essential to this novel and it pulls you into a story of the love between two people from very different backgrounds, of love lost, and a mystery that ends with surprises.

An enjoyable read about an unusual love that spans many years.
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Another favorite author does his covid novel, and it's perfect. All the elements are lined up here for this 70+ year old reader. The surprising elements of aging, cognitive decline and a rich past that comes knocking in a surprising twist that propels our protagonist on a quest for understanding and, perhaps, restored love?
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The more I read, the deeper I was involved.  Touch, yes, touched me on a deep level.   75-year-old restaurateur Kristofer who finds his memory is failing wakes during the early days of the pandemic to a facebook message from the woman who never left his heart over fifty years ago.  While he has trouble recounting his starter menus, part of his daily memory exercise, his memories of 1969 are crystal clear, and he soon finds himself flying to Japan.  What follows is a totally involving exploration of memory, love, determination, and, told in alternating chapters, an answer to a mystery that has haunted Kristofer for all that time.
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I received this from Netgalley.com.

"Kristofer receives a message from Miko, a woman whom he'd known in the sixties when they were students in London and he is drawn inexorably back into a love story that has marked him for life."

An okay read and I liked the Nordic setting. But it felt like a stretch for an elderly man to just pick up and go across the country during a pandemic.

3☆
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Wonderful creative story from Olaf Olafsson.  His plot structure is supberb.  Highly recommend this book but keep plenty of time so you don't have to put it down.
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So beautifully written I didn't want it to end! The author has a rare talent in putting words together in a way that is both peaceful and intriguing - his sentences just pull the reader along. I really didn't want the story to end. Olafson is now on my favorite author list!
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This book was quiet and lovely, just like Olaf's other books. There was a tension throughout it that made you want to keep reading despite a slow-paced more internal focus. The ending was perfect.
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An absorbing story of a life lived and the memories that permeate the present.
Kristofer is a seventy five year old man who in the early days of the pandemic has decided to close his restaurant. 
With that decision, he recollects the building of his career and when he met Miko during their student years. She was his great love and she left suddenly fifty years ago.  When Miko reaches out via Facebook, he is pulled back into her orbit. Amidst the trials of lockdown. he decides to travel to Japan to reunite with her. 
Equal parts love story and mystery, Olaf Olaffson keeps the reader compelled as he peels back the layers of life, love, friendships, aging and the eternal affect on one’s heart. 
Shared in dual timelines this is as engaging as it is beautiful. Aptly titled this will touch your mind, heart and soul long after the final page has been read.
Highly recommended with thanks to NetGalley, the author and Ecco Press for an ARC in exchange for an honest book review.
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TOUCH is a quietly mesmerizing novel perfect for fans of literary fiction.

Our 75-year-old narrator comes across as genuine and immediately likable. He is concerned with the pandemic and closing his restaurant. Faced with the prospect of declining mental facilities, he is an enthusiastic keeper of lists. Even at great risk to himself, he wants to do the right thing, especially when a voice from his past re-emerges. 

The decades-old love story at the center of the narrative is beautifully conveyed. Olafsson handles the movement back and forth in time seamlessly. I never felt that the pacing suffered as we learned what came before the present-day. There is a peaceful quality to the novel. While there is certainly forward momentum, the plot is not showy or loud, but rather gently leads the reader along a journey. 

Readers looking for a nostalgic, poignant story of what love means will enjoy TOUCH.

I was not previously familiar with Olaf Olafsson's work, though I now intended to read his backlist.
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I had read and admired Olaf Olafsson’s previous novel, “Sacrament,” so I had high expectations for “Touch,” and it easily exceeded them. I loved absolutely everything about this book, from the mesmerizing voice of seventy-five-year-old narrator Kristófer Hannesson, to the dual timelines following the events of his life in Reykjavik in March 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic, when he is shuttering his restaurant, and in London in 1969, when he meets and falls in love with Miko, the Japanese girl who disappeared without a trace and who Kristófer has never forgotten. As the events of these two timelines unfold in simple but beautiful prose, Olafsson builds a quiet sense of suspense which culminates in an almost simultaneous moment of loss and redemption that brings the book to its emotional climax. “Touch” is at its most basic level a love story, and a memorable one at that—but it is so much more. I will be pressing this one into the hands of pretty much everyone I know.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Ecco for providing me with an ARC of this title.
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I’m delighted to be the first person to rate and review this book on GR. 
I’ve discovered Olafsson by reading The Sacrament, which I really enjoyed, and was excited to read more by him when this came to Netgalley.
Olafsson is very, very good at writing quiet drama. There’s a measured Scandinavian calmness to his work, that certain brand of matter-of-factness, balanced out perfectly with a strong emotional backbone of the narrative.
This is a very simple story about a seventy-five-year-old Icelandic man who, amid the recent apocalyptic events, decides to reconnect with the love of his life, a Japanese woman he knew in London who has vanished on him fifty years ago without a word.
Through the dubious miracle that is social media, the two of them find each other once more, and skating through traveling restrictions across the distance that spans miles and decades, he goes to Japan.
Throughout his trip, the narrative dips back into the past, to take the reader into the swinging 70s (or whatever the 70s that followed the swinging 60s were) of London to tell a tale of two star-crossed lovers from very different cultures.
She and her father are Hiroshima survivors known as hibakusha, who in very bizarre twist of fate and a stunning example of victim blaming/shaming, became ostracized in their native land. 
He somehow never heard of Hiroshima’s fate and has to educate himself about it. That read so strangely…but maybe it isn’t a well-known fact globally? Isn’t it? Shouldn’t it be?
Why would a young educated English-speaking man from a first world country not have heard of it? How? Very odd.
Anyway, the two meet and it’s love. Real love. It doesn’t last, because they are soon separated – it lasts a lifetime because they never leave each other’s hearts.
Still reclaiming it fifty years later is no easy task. 
An absolutely lovely story. A lovely love story without any traditionally concomitant sap and cheese. Olafsson engages the readers easily with his writing style, there’s an organic storytelling quality to his narrative. A pleasure to read and a surprisingly quick read too. Recommended. Thanks Netgalley.
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