Alumna Karen Havelin '13 to Publish Debut Novel Dealing with Chronic Illness
June 22, 2018
Alumna Karen Havelin ’13 is coming out with her debut novel, Please Read This Leaflet Carefully (Dottir Press, May 2019), which deals with themes such as chronic illness, relationships, motherhood and sexuality.
Photo credit: Chris Aadland
She has already sold her book in three countries: the US, UK and Norway. It will be the first book published by feminist indie press Dottir.
“Havelin’s writing is penetrating and delicately wrought,” said Dottir founder Jennifer Baumgardner. “But it’s her ability to make visible female pain—the pain of a body that appears ‘normal’ as well as the pain of being blamed for being sick—that drew me to this astonishing book.”
Faculty member Paul Beatty praised the novel for its “poetic whisper.”
“Most books about disease try to describe the pain; told in poetic whisper, Karen Havelin’s debut novel lets pain speak for itself,” Beatty wrote. “It dares you be nosy, to eavesdrop and listen in to a stoic young woman whom no one noticed until she began to disappear—a burning triumph.”
The book, inspired by Havelin’s personal experiences while she was a student at Columbia, follows narrator Laura Fjellstad as she tries to live a normal life despite being diagnosed with severe endometriosis in her twenties. Told in reverse chronological order, readers meet Fjellstad in 2016 when she is in the grip of her debilitating illness, and then follow her back in time to 1995, when she was younger and healthier.
Fjellstad works to become completely independent to survive her illness, parenting her young daughter by herself.
Faculty member Alexandra Kleeman wrote that Havelin “writes with astounding sensitivity and grace of the vulnerability of the body, that abject and essential container within which we live our entire lives.”
“With a keen eye for detail and a boundless capacity to evoke empathetic thought, Havelin’s debut is a revelation,” Kleeman continued.
Havelin, a writer and translator from Bergen, Norway, has had her work published in both Norwegian and English. Her work has appeared in Narrative Northeast, Brooklyn Quarterly and Agave Magazine, among many other outlets.