On an ordinary day in Bergen, Norway, in the late 1980s, Anna is reading in the garden while her two-year-old daughter, Laura, plays on her tricycle. Then, in one startling moment, Anna misreads a word, an alternate universe opens up, and Laura disappears. Twenty years or so later, life has gone on as if nothing happened, but in each of the women’s lives, something is not quite right.
Both Anna and Laura continue to exist, but they are invisible to each other and forgotten in each other’s worlds. Both are writers and amateur pianists. They are married; Anna had two more children after Laura disappeared, and Laura is expecting a child of her own. They worry about their families, their jobs, the climate—and whether this reality is all there is.
In the exquisite, wistful, slyly profound Present Tense Machine, Gunnhild Øyehaug—called “one of the most exciting writers working today” by the bestselling author Jenny Offill—delivers another dazzling renovation of what fiction can do: a testament to the fact that language shapes the world.