Friday, September 9, 2016

Book Review: "One of Us: The Story of Anders Breivik and the Massacre in Norway" by Asne Seierstad

This book was on my TBR for a long time but I didn't ever pick it up due to the page length. You really have to plan when you're going to read those 500+ page books, you know? I finally made time for it, and I'm kicking myself for taking so long to open it up. 

Just as a reminder, in 2011 Anders Breivik detonated a bomb in downtown Oslo (killing 8) and then took guns to a island where a group of teenagers were at a camp and killed 69 teenagers. (Everytime I re-read the numbers it makes me queasy). I remember this attack, maybe more than others, because we have good family friends who were in Norway when this happened and they had been in Oslo the day before. Luckily we were able to reach them on faceook and found out that they were ok.
This book chronicles the life of Breivik and those of his victims, and then later the crimes themselves. The descriptions of the lives of everyone involved made for a really interesting look into the lives of people who live in Norway. Like (this is over simplifying) Breivik's mother said she felt too overwhelmed to care for him and so the government provided a family to watch him on the weekends for a short time. I was like whaaaaat is that all about? And how Norway has struggled to become an integrated, multicultural place. Not a rare struggle.

This book wasn't a feel good book. It was detailed and unflinching. You heard about the exact moments that these young people lost their lives. Where the bullets entered their brains. What they were holding in their hands when they dies. If they were near their friends. Sometimes their last words. However, I felt like the explicitness of the story kept it from being cheapened or glossed over. It showed the horror of the acts that were committed.

The whole book made me feel uneasy and sickly but there was one particular part that made me feel like someone punched me in the stomach. After the massacre had stopped and the survivors had been evacuated to the mainland the police and medical examiners began to cover all of the bodies with sheets. In the darkness and stillness of the coming night you could hear the cellphones ringing from the pockets and the clutched hands of the bodies under the sheets. The desperate phone calls to children from parents that wouldn't be answered. Ugh. 

I'm not going to rate this book because how can you rate a book about the worst days of so many people's lives. Be assured that this book is worth reading.



  1. Ohhh, man. Breivik touched a nerve here in neighboring Sweden. He definitely has a fan club over here; while the terms of his prison sentence preclude him contacting other right-wingers (he has a computer and a PlayStation 3, but no Internet access), but it's not like he's never in the news.

    I don't know what's going on over here. It's distressing.

    1. Katherine, thanks so much for commenting. I was curious what people thought about him. Thank God he can't have internet access. Is there a general feeling that his sentence was sufficient?


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