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Shadows In The Twilight    by Henning Mankell order for
Shadows In The Twilight
by Henning Mankell
Order:  USA  Can
Delacorte, 2008 (2007)
Hardcover, Paperback, CD
* *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Shadows In The Twilight is a companion read to Henning Mankell's A Bridge to the Stars, also starring Joel Gustaffson. Living with his lumberjack, once-sailor father Samuel, Joel considers that not much happens in their small community in northern Sweden - his life seems to be a series of Nexts. An incident that should have injured Joel severely soon proves him wrong. He comes out of it without a scratch, and it leads Joel to more self-discovery.

One foggy, drizzly Monday after school, Joel stops at Ljunggren's Grocery Store for potatoes and milk (a 'mom job'). Almost home, he remembers to stop in to visit Sara, a waitress at the bar, to thank her for a gift of pastilles. Joel does not look both ways as he runs across the street. Suddenly, a 'bus drove over the top of him and crashed into a lamppost outside the bar'. He's taken to hospital where Dr. Stenstrom says: 'This young boy has been incredibly lucky ... It can only be described as a miracle'. The word Miracle makes Joel believe he has to do something in return. But what?

He visits Gertrud 'No-Nose' at her unique home and asks 'When you've been on the receiving end of a Miracle? Do you have to say thank you?' Gertrud advises Joel that 'to show that you are grateful for the miracle, you can do a good deed.' So Joel sets off to perform a good deed and prove deserving of what might have been divine intervention. His plan is to find a husband for Gertrud, so that she'll not be alone and will have children of her own. Joel visits Sara to see if there might be good candidates at the bar - he finds two he thinks will fit the bill!

Bartering with nemesis classmate Otto for information on the men in return for picture cards, Joel finds out where the two possibilities live. He heads to Rolf Person's residence and it isn't long before Joel determines that Rolf would be an unsuitable husband for Gertrud. He then sets out to find fair-haired David Lundberg, who works for the city in the sewers. Satisfied with what he learns, Joel arranges a secret meeting for David and Gertrud by sending each of them a note, naming a time and place for a rendezvous. When his first attempt goes awry, Joel writes more notes, making the meeting place at an upcoming dance.

Henning Mankell deftly explores Joel's continuing self-discovery as he learns that lives can be altered in less than an instance. Joel also matures in understanding the consequences of telling the truth versus keeping a secret. Characters from Mankell's first book about Joel, Shadows In The Twilight - including his father Samuel, Sara, Gertrud, and Simon Windstorm - are more in the spotlight this time too.

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