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The White Bathing Hut by Thorvald Steen

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A novel about disability, family secrets, and Norway’s eugenic past. 

The White Bathing Hut is a genetic detective story. The narrator uses a wheelchair because of an inherited illness that has caused his muscle tissue to degenerate, making him unable to walk. One day, he falls from his wheelchair. His family is away, his cell phone out of reach, and he has no choice but to lie on the floor of his apartment, dissecting his life, until help arrives. He recalls his parents’ reactions of shame and silence when, as a teenager, his illness was first diagnosed. Now in her old age, his mother remains stubbornly secretive. A chance call from a cousin provides the narrator with clues about his grandfather and uncle, whom he never met and who both also had the disease. His search for the truth about his heredity is given new urgency when his mother is diagnosed with cancer. He must persuade her to speak before she dies, for his own sake and for his daughter’s. The White Bathing Hut is an indictment of contemporary Norwegian society, which claims to abhor its history of eugenics, yet still seeks to control the lives of people with disabilities. 

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