Published 2012, ISBN 978-1-105-36141-8, 252 pages

Oleanna’s family has farmed for generations in isolated Jolster, Western Fjordland, Norway.  A new century has arrived, but, in 1905, Jolster time stands still.  There are no modern conveniences.  Generations of traditional farming and lifestyle are all Oleanna and her sister, Elisabeth, know.  Hard physical labor with few luxuries and a never-ending list of chores.

The sisters have experienced much grief and loss.  Their mother and younger sister drowned in the lake; their brothers departed for America, likely never to be seen again.

Each loss hits Oleanna harder than the last.  She is surrounded by ghosts of her family and memories of those who left.  The past stakes Oleanna to the farm.  Elisabeth and her son are all Oleanna have left in the world.  Elisabeth senses a wildness in Oleanna and begs her not to leave her.  Elisabeth fears Oleanna has their mother’s untamed spirit.

In self-defense, Oleanna hardens her heart against grief.  As yet, she has not mourned her mother and sister.  To let herself give into emotion might undo her completely.  When her last brother, John, leaves for America, Oleanna feels abandoned.  Responsibility for her sister and nephew and operating the farm weigh upon her.  Life has given her no other choice.

A broken engagement to the local pastor, who refuses her comfort after her mother’s death, convinces her she will be a “forest wife”, forever without love.  That is, until Anders takes up residence in a small cabin nearby.

Neither Oleanna nor Anders are willing to talk about the pasts that haunt each of them.  It is a relationship born and lived in the moment.  The here and now doesn’t last. The outside world refuses to leave them peace.  Norway separates from Sweden in 1905.

Anders is compelled to leave Jolster for Bergen to help with Norway’s newfound independence.  He promises Oleanna he will return, but her experience is no one ever returns.  She views Anders’ choice as a betrayal of her and their love.  He has chosen to leave over her.

A letter from John in America enclosing money and an invitation to join him prompts Oleanna to seek her future.  Elisabeth’s marriage to the father of her son cements her decision.

Oleanna is written with beauty in lyrical prose.  It is an intense story of a woman who faces her ghosts, her true desires, struggles to have trust where none has existed before and to allow herself the freedom to choose.  This historical fiction novel is an indepth study of an woman who outwardly lives a simple life, but owns a complicated heart.

I especially found this novel enticing as it was based on a time and place in history which I’ve not seen explored before.  Highly recommended and a bargain at $7.99 for the Kindle Edition.

MY RATING:  4.5/5 Stars (Most excellent)

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