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MY MEN by Victoria Kielland
Translated by Damion Searls
Brynhild Størset flees Norway after falling pregnant to a landed thug who beats her until she miscarries. She finds refuge at her sister’s home in Chicago, changes her name to Bella (later Belle), and starts to make a life for herself, like many Norwegian immigrants, in this new land of hope and promise. Problem is, the men she attracts have the uncanny knack of meeting rather suspicious ends. Later known to history as Belle Gunness, she was America’s first (and still most prolific) female serial killer.
Belle is an intractably complex character; deeply religious, ambitious, smart and damaged by terrible circumstance. Kielland does a superb job of relaying her story through a fog of plausible deniability that had me second guessing much of what I was reading. Small clues can be found in the lushly biblical prose that point to a worst case scenario but, even as Belle descends into madness, it is hard not to give her the benefit of the doubt. My Men is a great read at first instance, but is also the kind of book that, I feel, would reward a second pass in that Jordan Peele kind of way. I’m definitely going back.
My Men by Victoria Kielland (Tr. Damion Searls)
Astra House, 2023