I received an advanced review copy of this title from Open Letter Press through Edelweiss. This book was originally published in Danish and this English translation is done by K.E. Semmel
At the core of the book is the complex character of Thomas who has never really dealt with or gotten over his terrible childhood. Thomas’ mother walked out on their family when he was a young boy and left Thomas and his sister, Jenny, to be raised by a physically and emotionally abuse father. When Thomas’ father, with whom he has not had contact in years, dies in prison, all of his unpleasant childhood feelings and memories come crashing in on his life.
Thomas owns and runs a successful stationery store with his best friend and partner, Maloney. A lot of the book describes Thomas everyday life while he works, goes out for lunch and drinks and spends time with his live-in girlfriend, Patricia. It seems that Thomas has a good life, a steady income, and is surrounded by stable friends and family. Thomas is close to his sister, Jenny, and even though she is emotionally needy and dramatic he still feels the need to always protect her. But when Thomas has to deal with his father’s funeral, he slowly begins to unravel and come apart at the seams.
The sentences and language of the book are oftentimes short, even choppy or staccato, which style fits well with the ever-changing moods of Thomas. One minute he is enraged and punching a heap of boxes and the next he is calm and happy. There is a long stretch of time in the book, after his father’s funeral, during which Thomas wants to do nothing but sleep. He becomes distant from Patricia and he won’t even consider having a family with her. His rage also has sexual manifestations and this is what ultimately drives his girlfriend Patricia away.
A large section of the book is dedicated to a family trip that Thomas takes with Patricia as they go and visit Thomas’ aunt, cousins, sister and niece. The setting in the rustic countryside and the meals shared together seem to put Thomas at ease and the reader is lured into thinking that Thomas’ rough patch is finally over. But there is one guest at the party, a young man named Luke, who was an old acquaintance of his father’s. Thomas doesn’t quite trust Luke or Luke’s supposed relationship with Thomas’ father. Even when Thomas has some peace like on the weekend vacation, there is always a discomfort or an uneasiness lurking in the background.
One final aspect of the story worth mentioning is Thomas’ encounter with his father’s old business partners. Thomas accidentally finds a large sum of money at his father’s abandoned apartment and he tries to ask his partners about his father’s criminal past. But the partners are reluctant to speak about their business at all and it is never even revealed why his father was in prison. Thomas’ stationery business is vandalized, his home is broken into and his girlfriend is attacked at one point. Thomas assumes that all of these incidents are related to his father’s illegal business but, despite his theories, Thomas never really gets to the bottom of this mystery.
ROCK, PAPER, SCISSORS is a dark, complex look into the psyche of a man who has had a traumatic childhood; it is also a look into what can happen to that man’s life if these issues are never dealt with. I will warn you that the book ends on a bit of a cliff hanger. We can only wonder and hope that Aidt has another episode of Thomas’ story in the works for us.
About The Author:
Naja Marie Aidt is a Danish poet and writer. She was born in Greenland, and spent some of her childhood there. She published her first book of poetry in 1991, and in 2008 she was awarded the Nordic Council’s Literature Prize.