Nebenan / Next Door

Kristine Bilkau

Luchterhand, 2022

A small town on the Kiel Canal, close to the Northern Sea, between nature and industry: In the middle of everyday life, a family disappears without a trace. No one seems to have noticed anything, nobody seems to have known the people who lived there. The abandoned house becomes the mental center of the neighbors: Julia, in her late thirties, whose desire for a child remains unfulfilled, recently moved here from the big city with her boyfriend and runs a small ceramics boutique. Astrid, in her early sixties, who has been running a practice in the nearby district town for decades and worries about her aunt who has grown old. And then there is the mysterious child who appears in the missing family’s garden.

They all circle around each other like strangers, seemingly unnoticed by those closest to them, longing for connection yet withdrawing into privacy. They all have their secrets, desires, and fears. Their paths cross, their stories interconnect, as they seek what we all long for: security, belonging and familiarity. An intensive and dense novel about the fragility of the world we live in and about the question of how close we can really get to the people with whom we share our living space.

Read an English-language sample translation by Alexandra Roesch here.

This book was shortlisted for the German Book Prize 2022. As the media partner for the Prize, we publish information on all six shortlisted books.