The Home tells the story of Joel, who has returned from big city life to his old home town to help his mother Monika (who is suffering from the onset of Dementia) move into a nursing home. As Monika starts to settle in, the other residents and the staff soon become unsettled. Something unusual is happening in the home, and it all revolves around Monika.
Choosing to tackle dementia in a genre story is a bold move and Swedish author Mats Strandberg delivers an impressively realistic depiction of what it means to care for a loved one suffering with the steady decline of brain function. This in itself can easily be triggering for those going through something similar, though the book confidently walks the tightrope – steering clear of being insensitive as the premise blurs the line between realism and suggestions of the supernatural.
Though the chapters are short (each one focusing on a different viewpoint) we are treated to an incredibly textured world where characterisation is abundant. Joel is not without a few skeletons in his closet and when he pairs up with care home worker Nina (who herself has a complex past), there’s a heightened state of stress and drama in an already difficult situation.
Despite being billed as the ‘Swedish Stephen King‘, Strandberg’s style seems somewhat at odds with the genre. It may be that some of the subtleties and finesse of his native prose have been lost in translation but the expected rhythmic build and release of tension feels strangely out of sync here. In fact, its storytelling style and tone are reminiscent of the recent popular TV detective shows that have horror elements, rather than delivering any real scares.
Despite a great premise, The Home fails to deliver the supernatural elements you may expect. The book still manages to hit home as an impactful drama-come-mystery, it’s just a shame that it’s more intriguing than horrifying.
The Home by Mats Strandberg is out now from Jo Fletcher Books.