Astrid and Veronika

‘A good father,’ Astrid said. ‘A loving father.’ She looked up. The wine had painted her cheeks pink and Veronika suddenly thought she could again see beauty in the old face. ‘Parents have such formidable power. They can protect you from all the pain in the world. Or inflict the hardest pain of all. And as children we accept what we get. Perhaps we believe that anything is better than that which we all fear the most.’ She looked out the window, where the hot summer air stood still. ‘Loneliness. Abandonment,’ she said. ‘But once you accept the fact that you have always been alone, and will always be, then your perspective can begin to change. You can become aware of the small kindnesses, the little comforts. Be grateful for them. And with time you will understand that there is nothing to fear. And much to be grateful for.’  She lifted her glass and drank the last mouthful. ‘For me, the realization took a lifetime. Don’t let it take you that long, Veronika.’

(Karin Boye is a Swedish poet whose work Linda Olsson includes in this book, and whom I had not known of before reading Astrid and Veronika. Perhaps you know of her already?)

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24 thoughts on “Astrid and Veronika”

  1. YOUR WARMTH Your warmth, your tender warmthI ask to share,that streamed long before manon earth was there.In the deep primordial forest'sdowny bird's nestthat same protective warmth borelife's founding rest.From anguish-burning heavenswe sink down wherein the nest's darkness, lifeasks nothing more.For the clouds' games are a mirageand mirror spray,but all that is born and bearsis what depths give away.Day dawns, and the skies resoundwith rushing of wings.The soaring bird rejoices:On light I live! he singsBut hidden in the silence restshis weal and woe.Your warmth, your deep warmth

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  2. I love Your Warmth, Parrish, and now I need to look back in Olsson's book and see if she used that poem any where. I trust that you already know of Boye; did you know that you have me looking for poetry on a daily basis now? Even when I'm reading my beloved fiction?

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  3. Chris, it is a gorgeous cover which I tried to photograph well enough to give you an indication as such. The strawberries on it are quite integral to the story; Astrid has a strawberry patch in which quite pivotal things in her life occurred, and she offer the strawberries to her friend Veronika. Perhaps, as I'm seeing it now, just as she offers her life stories. Her life, period.

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  4. Ally, have you read Steve Martin's Shopgirl? I never knew he was anything but a comedian, but when I read that first novel of his I became aware of what a tender, literate side he has. I'm looking forward to An Object of Beauty which everyone seemed to be reading last year. Oh well, it just came to our library this week.

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  5. Diane, it is a piercingly beautiful book. So much so that I had difficulty writing about it. Somehow, the really moving ones, the really special ones, leave me at a loss to post about. Anyway, the best I could do last night after turning the last page was put my favorite quote which I think is rather indicative of the story.

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  6. Audry and Berumdaonion, I think I may have been confusing to put the poet reference under the quote by the author…they are two different women, but Linda Olssen refers to Karin Boye's poetry often in this book. Both are lovely writers as you can see.

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  7. The cover is very beautiful!!! I will put this one on my list.btw, I have been meaning to write and tell you I finished Of Bees and Mist….LOVED it. I loved the way the author painted a picture of how we so easily tear others down or build them up. Thanks for the referral!

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  8. Sara, it's sad, but good. So glad you enjoyed Of Bees and Mist. There were about half the women in my book club who said, "Who recommended this?!" with a bit of hostility? Not hostility, but consternation certainly. Not everyone can handle the magical realism element(s), but I for one will always things of someone who speaks meanly as 'bringing her bees'. An irrevocable image was created in my mind, as well as the mists which carried her father in and out of their family home.

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  9. Kailana, it's a perfect cover for summer, isn't it? And, somehow, the author made it fit for all the seasons in one's life.Kathy, how interesting that you are discussing it tonight! We're discussing it next Wednesday night. What did you think? Did you find it as powerful as I did? I literally cried on some of the pages…

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  10. Some days after Mom's death a friend of hers said to me, "It's such a shame she was alone when she died". What she meant is that it was a shame that I wasn't there at the moment of death. But isn't there so much truth and comfort in these words?…Once you accept the fact that you have always been alone, and will always be, then your perspective can begin to change. You can become aware of the small kindnesses, the little comforts. Be grateful for them. And with time you will understand that there is nothing to fear. And much to be grateful for.Indeed.

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  11. Kristin, I'm glad that you like the words in the quote as I did.Vasilly, it's a little known book (at least you don't see it around very much) but it's a treasure. I'm so glad someone from our book club suggested it, and I had the chance to read it. I can see why you liked it so much.Linda, I've often heard that our parents/loved ones won't die when we're around. My own dear grandmother waited until her daughters were away, and she must have had to wait a long time because they held a constant vigil. But, she didn't die until only my cousin was in her apartment. Anyway, you picked out the words which struck me so poignantly, for my own self, too, I think in terms of a.)giving up fear and b.) being grateful (instead of sad). Life is such a journey, and I love it when books help us carve a path.

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