For the Love of Cod by Eric Dregni

University of Minnesota Press, 2021 | Hardcover: $22.95

Reviewed by Ailee Slater

Minnesota writer Eric Dregni is no stranger to Norway. It’s where his ancestors hail from, it’s where he spent his Fulbright Fellowship, and it’s where his son was born. But when Norway comes out #1 in the United Nations’ 2017 World Happiness Index, Dregni finds himself wondering: Is Norway really one of the happiest places on Earth? To investigate further, Dregni books a trip to Norway for himself and his son Elif.

For the Love of Cod is the story of Eric and Elif’s adventure in Norway, but it is also a frank, funny look at what makes this Scandinavian country unique. Part memoir and part travelogue, with plenty of humor and historical details to boot, For the Love of Cod takes readers on a vivid tour Norway’s people, landscape and culture. As Eric seeks to uncover why Norway has earned so many accolades for happiness—and what happiness even means—readers are treated to a thoughtful, laugh-out-loud adventure traversing the varied Norwegian landscape and covering everything from black metal music, to the complicated truth about the Vikings, to all the reasons why Norwegian home design is just plain weird.

Throughout the book, it never feels that Dregni is romanticizing Norway. While extolling the country’s long parental leave, low rates of violence and plentiful vacation days, he also covers the less rosy side of life: including the rising wealth gap, differing attitudes on immigration, and an economy largely based on oil. Rather than taking a steadfast view on any of these cultural arenas, Dregni deftly explores them through the lens of factual data, and the opinions of friends and strangers whom he and Elif meet along the course of their journey. The result is a delightfully informative narrative that’s both entertaining and insightful, without ever being heavy-handed.

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