what we’ve become
Linda Olsson explores the
importance of frıendship
By Dorman T. Shindler
Connection from her home in Auckland. “I was
very homesick.” Fortunately for Olsson, whose
children were now in college, she’d just enrolled in
a writing course. When her professor had every-
one in class write a novel, Olsson’s feelings of frus-
tration and homesickness were
“poured into the book.”
LIKE MANY YOUNG girls who
get bitten by the dance bug, New
Zealand author Linda Olsson
dreamed of becoming a ballerina.
But an early realization that she
“wasn’t as good” as the professionals
she’d seen at the Royal Swedish
Ballet with her maternal grandmother caused her to turn to more
Her professor was so impressed
that he sent the manuscript to a
publisher. Shortly thereafter,
Olsson became a published author
with her first novel: Astrid &
Veronika. Since its publication in
“sensible” career paths.
Graduating from the University
of Stockholm with a degree in law,
she found work writing contracts
and proposals in the finance field, where she eventually met the man who became her husband. His job
took precedence, and Olsson soon fell into the role
of supportive wife and mother as her spouse’s career
took them around the world: Singapore, England,
2005, the book has become an
international bestseller and been
optioned for the movies, Olsson
has written a second novel (Sonata
for Miriam) and, in a turn of
events she finds “particularly satisfying,” Astrid &
Veronika has become the foundation for a ballet
that will debut in New Zealand.
After her husband’s latest job offer took their
family to New Zealand, Olsson woke up on a dreary,
rainy day and suddenly realized she hadn’t seen her
family (mother, father, brothers, etc.), or Sweden,
the country of her birth, in a very long time.
“I started feeling sorry for myself,” Olsson says
with a laugh, during a phone interview with The
“It’s very much a love story to my home country,” says Olsson, acknowledging her poetic and
nostalgic descriptions of Sweden. What’s more,
Astrid & Veronika is a tribute to two of the most
important people in Olsson’s life: Dagny, her paternal grandmother, who worked hard all her days,
but lived life on her own terms; and Anna-Lisa, her
maternal grandmother, who subdued her own
dreams in favor of husband and children. Although
Anna-Lisa moved to America, Olsson managed to
spend large parts of her life with both grandmothers. She shared a passion for music and ballet with
Anna-Lisa, and a love of the theater with Dagny.
And when Olsson’s father died at the age of 52, she
and Dagny turned to each other for comfort.
Although “there’s a little bit of both” of her grandmothers’ personalities present in the fictional Astrid,
Olsson says that character is also based on other
women she has known through the years. Because of
this familiarity, says Olsson, “Astrid was very easy for
me to write about. I could see her very clearly.”
Asked about the novel’s central theme, Olsson
says, without hesitation, that it is “the importance of
friendship.” In the case of Astrid and Veronika,
friendship breaches age barriers and helps heal
emotional scars in both women.
“I wanted to show how they were able
to help each other,” says Olsson. “Our
old friends and our family, they know
so much about us that you can never
get rid of that baggage. But with a new
relationship, we can begin with what we
have become.” C
COSTCO HAS 50 copies of Linda Olsson’s
Astrid & Veronika with signed book plates
to give away. For a chance to win, send
an e-mail to
“Linda Olsson” in the subject line. Or print
your name, address and daytime phone
number on a postcard or letter and send it
to: Linda Olsson, The Costco Connection,
P.O. Box 34088, Seattle, WA 98124-1088.
NO PURCHASE OR PAYMENT OF ANY KIND IS
NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN THIS SWEEPSTAKES.
Purchase will not improve odds of winning. S weepstakes is sponsored
by Penguin Putnam, 375 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014. Open to legal
residents of the U.S. (except Puerto Rico) who are age 18 or older at
the time of entry. One entry per household. Entries must be received by
October 1, 2009. Winners will be randomly selected and notified by mail
on or before November 2, 2009. The value of the prize is $14. Void where
prohibited. Winners are responsible for all applicable federal, state and local
taxes. Odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received.
Employees of Costco or Penguin Putnam and their families are not eligible.
I AM DRAWN to unlikely
friendships. And when I
read Linda Olsson’s Astrid
& Veronika I was charmed
by Olsson’s skill at giving
credence to the value of
friendships between older
and younger women. When
30-year-old Veronika moves
to a rural town in Sweden,
she strikes up a friendship
with Astrid—who’s in her
80s and has a reputation as
the town witch.
In Olsson’s novel, as in
life, both women benefit
from the friendship. The
younger woman has the
advantage of learning life
lessons from the older
woman’s perspective. The
older woman finds value in
her life once more—or
perhaps for the first time.
Linda Olsson’s Astrid &
Veronika is available at
most Costco warehouses
and at Costco.com.
For more book picks,
see page 41.
Costco Book Buyer
Freelance writer Dorman T. Shindler
currently lives in Melbourne, Australia.