Patrick Briotte- Staff Writer
Who feels they are at the end of their rope? For some people, it is a time to reflect on the past and wonder what they could have done differently. For others, it is a chance to enjoy themselvesf to the fullest in the time they have left. But for one person, it is time to look towards the future again. “Happy Days of the Grump,” written by award winning novelist and the 2005 Finlandia Prize nominee Tuomas Kyrö, follows the story of an eighty year old man who has resigned himself to the idea of death.
More concerned with composing his will, Hendrik Groen is a stauch believer in the old ways of the world. This trait is best exemplified by his insistance of using a fountain pen to organize his will due to the distrust he has of anything based around technology.
If any readers out there have ever known a relative or family friend with a mentality of “everything was better in my day,” they would have an immediate understanding of the impression Groen gives as a person.
Things take a turn for the worse when a misstep on the basement stairs results in a trip to the hospital.
Decades of memories cross Groen’s eyes, a reflection of the people that he holds close to his heart as well as just how drastically the world itself has changed since he was a young man. In this moment of clarity, the realization is made that he must move forward instead of longing for the past.
This story does an amazing job at putting the reader firmly into the mind of Groen. From thought processes to him voicing his opinion with little regard for how others may feel, he comes across as a genuine person rather than a played up caricature of a grumpy old man.
There is an interesting trend that is noticeable when readers focus on how little distinction there is between thoughts and what ends up being his spoken dialogue, showing a man who has long since become used to speaking his mind at his age.
Through his eyes the reader is introduced to a supporting cast, which includes his wife and daughter-in-law, all of whom interact with him just as a real family would. The moments of affection, concern, and frustration over Groen’s stubborn nature felt as genuine as any family would if a comparison was made between the real world and the book presented.
This is emphasized when the title character attempts to use a voucher for a hotel that was printed twenty years ago, with the cornerstone of his defense being that there was never an expiration date included on it.
Here, it is most evident that a strong argument is being made as readers can see the thought process Groen has gone through before insisting the voucher is still valid, but from a third person perspective he can be seen as behaving in a very obnoxious manner just so he can get his way. This connection the reader forms with him effectively blurs the boundaries between our own thoughts and his, as each thought can be understood from Groen’s point of view.
“Happy Days of the Grump” tells a compelling story where the lead role is filled by a man who, while initially frustrating to follow, quickly grows familiar and relatable through his quirks in every day life. Groen is the character that says the things people wish they could say out loud, but restrain themselves.
An honest look at themes of life, death and family is given without flinching at the more unpleasant implications that such topics can have connected to them.
This story, much like Groen himself, presents everything in a flat and straightforward manner with little self-censoring. For anyone interested in a tale of reflection, sarcastic humour and a protagonist that boasts a ‘take me as I am’ attitude, author Tuomas Kyrö has you covered. Groen will tell the reader his life story, his thoughts and has no regrets if you either agree or disagree with him. With that kind of honesty from the protagonist, “Happy Days of the Grump” is a story that welcomes all but on its own terms.