Thursday, January 16, 2014

Reading Record - Book 2: In Cod We Trust: Living the Norwegian Dream by Eric Dregni

Overall an enjoyable read. A book of essays by a guy who got a scholarship to go with his wife and spend a year in Norway, possibly connecting with distant relatives and experiencing the culture. At about the same time they learn that they will get to go to Norway, they find out they are pregnant. So of course they have the baby in Norway.

Easy to read. Fast read. Enjoyable.
Makes me want to travel to Scandinavia (ok. I wanted to travel to Scandinavia before I read this book).
Lots of familiar things. Some of the things they experience in this book are similar or the same as other European countries. So it was nice to remember our time in Lithuania (and other countries we visited) while reading this book.
Always interesting to read about someone's encounter with another culture.
Interesting to read about birthing a baby in another country.


The essays sometimes lacked a flow. Examples: He spoke about shopping at Rimi a few times throughout the book, but not until a chapter near the end did he explain that Rimi is a grocery store (as if it were the first time he had brought it up). No worries for me as a reader, we shopped sometimes at Rimi when we lived in Lithuania. Another example is he mentions bunads every once in a while, but in one of the last chapters he describes what bunads are as if he had never brought them up in the book. Little things like that. I'm guessing he wrote the essays out of order, and maybe his editor didn't notice or care? Or maybe the essays are meant to be read as stand-alone?

The author and his wife are sometimes of unlikeable. Sometimes his assessment of cultural things rubbed me the wrong way, like either it seemed like the conclusion he drew was too broad (this one Norwegian does this thing this way, so it must be the way ALL Norwegians do it!) or sometimes too specific (thinking that something was unique to Norway, when in reality, it happens in other cultures too). Sometimes his anecdotes seemed a bit random. Or it felt like he was looking down on the culture sometimes (ok, so fish soaked in lye doesn't sound all that appealing, but try to understand the other side of it. Do you realize that many other cultures use lye in cooking too? It's not just drain cleaner). Sometimes the wife came across as sort of an unadventurous stinker. I don't know if she is in real life, or if the husband's writing just made her seem that way. I can give her the benefit of the doubt, being pregnant when they first got there, and having the baby and being a new mom. Those can be adventurous enough, without having to be in a new place and try a bunch of new things. I get it. But perhaps this is the only chance they will ever have to spend a year in Norway. Soak up the experiences, lady! Try to find something to enjoy! (again, maybe it was just the way her husband wrote her. Maybe if this were her book she would have come across differently).

That's it. If you think that you would be the type of person to read about a Minnesotan's experience in Norway, then of course I would recommend this as a just-for-fun read. If you are going to move to another country and need some advice, this might be a fun read, but I would recommend reading other books in addition to this one to get you ready.

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