April Witch by Majgull Axelsson
A Novel

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“No excuses will do anymore. Time to put my sisters in motion.”

Desirée lies in a hospital bed thinking, dreaming. One of the children born severely disabled in 1950s Sweden and then routinely institutionalized for life—and one of a very few to survive nearly to the century’s end—she cannot walk or talk, but she has other capabilities. Desirée is an April witch, clairvoyant and omniscient, leaving her own body and traveling into the world denied her.

The working-class woman who gave Desirée up at birth took in three foster daughters several years later, and even as adults they know nothing of the existence of their fourth “sister.” Christina, abused by her psychotic birth mother and burdened by a sense of inferiority, is now a physician; Margareta, the onetime foundling, an astrophysicist who can never manage to complete her dissertation, is as restless and sensual as she was in her youth; and Birgitta, in her day the fastest, sexiest teen queen in town, is now a derelict alcoholic and substance abuser.

In spite of her physical disabilities, Desirée possesses tremendous intelligence, and she observes the world around her with great acumen. She has developed a very special relationship with her primary care physician, Dr. Hubertsson, who realizes that she could and should know something about her own background. Unbeknownst to him, she goes on to make supernatural use of this information.

Sensing that her own time is drawing to a close, Desirée also feels that one of the others has lived the life that should have been hers. One day, each of the three women—Christina, Margareta, Birgitta —receives a mysterious letter that inspires her to examine her past and her present, setting into motion a complex fugue of memory, regret, and confrontation that builds to a shattering climax.

April Witch created a furor upon its original publication in Sweden, where it was an immense bestseller. Addressing themes of mother-daughter relationships, competition between women, and the failures of Sweden’s postwar welfare state, it is foremost a thrillingly written and fascinating story.

About Majgull Axelsson

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Majgull Axelsson is the author of four works of nonfiction as well as one previous novel, Far from Nifelheim, for which she was awarded the 1994 Moa Stipend. The 1997 publication of April Witch in Sweden earned her the prestigious August Prize. She is married, has two children, and lives in Stockholm.
Published March 19, 2002 by Villard. 416 pages
Genres: Education & Reference, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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This award-winning 1997 Swedish novel shapes a complex family melodrama from an entirely original premise: the “connection” between a psychic, inexplicably omniscient invalid confined to an institution and the three stepsisters in whose infinitely fuller lives she has never played a part.

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Publishers Weekly

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Desirée (meaning "desired one") Johansson is the ironically named daughter of Ella Johansson—ironic because Ella abandoned her at birth.

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News Review.

Abandoned at birth in the intolerant 1950s, Desiree now obsesses over the lives of her three "sisters"—foster children, now adults, who were raised by Desiree’s mother and are pretty screwed up themselves.

Jun 13 2002 | Read Full Review of April Witch: A Novel

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