Laura van der Haar
Around Four Weeks
A young single mother faces an impossible decision amid a deadly pandemic
What do you do when you’re a single parent without a social safety net and you become sick with a highly contagious virus? Laura van der Haar aptly describes this predicament in her tense, claustrophobic Covid-19 thriller.
Ida lives in Barcelona. She has a little girl named Joanes who is barely three months old. Ida is feeling short of breath and is afraid she has contracted the virus. She’s almost completely on her own – she followed her boyfriend Rainer to Barcelona, but he took off not long after. She’s renting a small apartment and doesn’t know anyone except her yoga pal Nellie and a colleague from the bakery where she works. She doesn’t feel at home here. She can’t seem to get used to the culture or the climate. Though she doesn’t know a lot of people in the Netherlands either – both of her parents are dead – the prospect of living in a village again and reconnecting with her grandmother, some friends from university and the girl who used to live next door to her was enough for her to start planning a move back home. But the virus has completely upended those plans.
It started with just sneezing, but a sore throat, muscle pain, a fever and nightmares are forcing Ida to realize she needs to get tested and treated. But who will take care of her sweet little girl? Van der Haar describes with impressive empathy how Ida tries to stem her growing panic. With deft mastery of language, she crafts a tender portrait of a mother’s all-encompassing love for her baby. It’s both funny and moving how she has Ida use everyday words as terms of endearment for her daughter – ‘my little tailgater,’ ‘my little oil tanker’ – or how she describes the mixture of cold and warm air in that transitional time between winter and spring as ‘2-in-1 weather: vanilla custard with swirls of chocolate.’
Van der Haar slowly ratchets up the tension, creating an eerie, alienating atmosphere reminiscent of masters of suspense like Alfred Hitchcock or Roald Dahl. We’re right there in Ida’s head as she gets more and more anxious and paranoid. Is it all just a bad dream? And what role does her friend Nellie play in all this?