July 2004

A grandmother’s final gift

By Bodil Bredsdorff
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Draw near the fire, light the lamp and hear the gentle story of Crow-Girl, her grandmother and the family she builds for herself when she is left alone in the world. With the calm drama of the incoming tide, beloved Danish writer Bodil Bredsdorff brings this story of kindness, bravery, evil and redemption to the English-speaking world in The Crow-Girl. What a gift her words are.

Crow-Girl and her grandmother live all alone in a small cottage, tucked into a cove. Theirs is a life filled with the joys and challenges of staying alive. They keep the fire burning, gather food from the sea, cook their ancient stews and do all the mundane and comforting tasks that make up life.

It soon becomes clear that the grandmother is nearing the end of her life. She spends her final days instructing her granddaughter about the ways of life and death. She warns her of the dangers of eating bad shellfish, tells her to sleep far from the fire and describes the different types of people in the world. One day, after Crow-Girl makes a wonderful stew and brews up a cup of tea, she realizes that her grandmother has died. "The girl was about to ask what she should do. But suddenly it dawned on her that this was exactly what she could not do, what she could never do again."

Wearing her grandmother's sturdy gray shawl, Crow-Girl goes out to meet the world. Through her travels, she finds the types of people her grandmother has told her about, those who make you feel inside "as if you are drinking a good, warm soup" and those who "cause you to freeze inside, even if you are sitting before a roaring fire and have eaten your fill." Crow-Girl relies on her grandmother's advice and her own intuition. And, when she returns to her cottage by the sea, the orphan girl finds a new family, created by her own wit and heart.

Precious few books are translated into English every year. Reading a marvelous tale like this one makes me wish for many more.

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The Crow-Girl

The Crow-Girl

By Bodil Bredsdorff
Farrar, Straus
ISBN 9780374312473

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