Two Women by Marianne Fredriksson

Date of Publication: 1999, Ballantine Books

Number of Pages: 195

Synopsis (from back cover): They meet on a spring day in the local garden center: Inge, a native Swede, lovely and refined, a woman ruled by reason and her own deeply held moral beliefs; Mira, a Chilean immigrant who still feels out of place in the cold Scandinavian north. Through many shared afternoons in Inge’s garden, Mira slowly reveals the horrors of a shadowed past and the heartbreak involving her beloved daughter. As Mira and her family begin a wrenching journey of discovery, Inge unwittingly uncovers secrets in her own life that make her question the very order of her world. An elegant novel of time and memory, love and distance, and the wounds they create and conceal, Two Women is Marianne Fredriksson’s most affecting work of fiction to date.

Review: There are many novels out there that deal with relationships between women, but Two Women is unlike any of them. This book deals with extraordinary issues, like rape, torture, and incest, as well as the usual issues, like marriage, sex, and trust. Inge and Mira are very different. One is restrained by her logic, while the other is caught in a web of violent emotions stemming from her tragic past. Important questions arise early: Should the past remain buried? Or should it be sought? How easily should we trust other people? At what point does love become a burden?

Like all Fredriksson’s books, love is dealt with openly and frankly, almost unrealistically. There’s none of the common coyness that one usually encounters, both in books and in the real world. Instead, people are heartbreakingly honest with each other, if not entirely honest with themselves. Lessons are learned by everyone, and often in unexpected ways. One character finds his true self by learning  to paraglide, while another finds rebirth in a violent storm. In the end, the two families are strengthened by their connection, yet their imperfections persist, making them believable. Any reader will find themselves relating to these characters, despite their sometimes extraordinary circumstances.

Rating: 8.5/10

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